American Heart Association
Comments on Cigarette and Smokeless Tobacco Reports: Request for Public Comments
Office of the Secretary
June 11, 2001
The American Heart Association strongly encourages the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to continue issuing reports on the sale, advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. In light of the minimal amount of current federal oversight of tobacco products in the United States, and the lack of information available to consumers about tobacco products and tobacco industry practices, the FTC tobacco reports represent vital and irreplaceable sources of information regarding the nation's leading preventable cause of death.
Following are the American Heart Association's suggestions and responses to the questions posed by the FTC:
Who uses the cigarette and smokeless tobacco reports? For what purposes do they use them?
The American Heart Association uses the FTC reports to develop strategies to help prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases caused by smoking.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans. Stroke is the third leading cause of death.1 About one in five deaths from cardiovascular diseases are attributable to smoking2 and more than 400,000 Americans die each year of smoking-related illnesses. The largest portion of these deaths are cardiovascular-related.3 Tobacco use, then, is the leading preventable cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States.
The FTC reports are vital sources of information to assist the American Heart Association in our mission to prevent heart disease and stroke. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report For 1999 shows that "total [cigarette] advertising and promotional expenditures rose 22.3 percent to $8.24 billion, the most ever reported to the Commission." Although expenditures for outdoor advertising decreased 81.7% (presumably due to the ban on billboard advertising contained in the Master Settlement Agreement with the State Attorneys General), advertising expenditures increased 73% in newspapers, 34% in magazines, 134% in sampling, and 64% in direct mail. This information helps the American Heart Association devise programs and activities that will help inform the public about the dangers of tobacco use, as well as promote federal and state policies to protect consumers. This information also assists the public in making decisions about the ethics of such promotion and marketing expenditures and whether to purchase tobacco products.
What are the costs to the industries to provide the Commission with the data included in the cigarette and smokeless tobacco reports?
The American Heart Association does not have access to tobacco industry cost data to provide specific dollar amounts in response to this question. Just as other industries incur a cost to comply with consumer protection measures, the tobacco industry will bear some cost for the FTC reports. However, given the annual profits of the tobacco industry (based on the 2000 SEC Filings and Shareholders Reports of the two biggest companies -- Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, profits were in excess of $7.5 billion), the cost is certainly nominal.
A better question might be, "What are the costs of not issuing the FTC cigarette and smokeless tobacco reports?" Smoking already costs Americans an estimated $130 billion annually in medical care. This includes the cost of smoking during pregnancy, lost workdays, lost output from early death and retirement, and fires caused by smoking.4 The impact here might also be measured in dollars (public and private) spent on tobacco-control activities that would be less effective without the FTC data. A more sobering impact might be measured in the number of Americans who would begin smoking because of the lack of available consumer information regarding the dangers of tobacco use.
Should the Commission continue to collect and publish data regarding cigarette and smokeless sales, advertising and promotion? Why or why not?
To our knowledge, the FTC is the only federal entity with the responsibility to collect information on the sale, advertising and promotion of tobacco products. Without data gathered by the FTC, the public simply won't have access to information from the tobacco industry. Unlike any other product, tobacco is not subject to the routine consumer protection laws enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or any other agency. Data gathered by the FTC -- albeit not comprehensive or exhaustive -- still provides a vital link in trying to educate the public about tobacco products and tobacco industry practices.
What data or other information contained in the reports are useful and should be continued in any future reports? Why? What data or other information in previous reports are of little or no use, and could be omitted in future reports? Why?
All of the information provided by the FTC in the reports is crucial to the American Heart Association's efforts to prevent heart disease and stroke through tobacco control activities. To be more helpful, the information reported by the FTC should be broken down into subcategories (e.g., by state, by brand, by company), instead of reporting it in the aggregate. Detailed information of this sort would be more helpful, especially since tobacco control efforts are often handled state-by-state or even on a local level.
Is there information about cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales, advertising and promotion that has not been included in the reports, but that would be of use? If so, what additional information would be of use, and why would it be useful?
As suggested in our answer to question #4, the American Heart Association believes the information provided by the FTC would be more helpful if it contained more detail. Specifically, we join with many others in the public health community (we have lent our name to the comments submitted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids on this matter and we reiterate their recommendations in our comments) in suggesting that the following elements be added to the FTC's reports:
Breakdown of data on a state-by-state basis.
Breakdown of promotional allowances information.
Breakdown of retail value-added information.
Information on a company-specific or brand specific basis.
Information on smoke constituents contained in mainstream and sidestream tobacco smoke. (Incidentally, this is the same information that is currently provided to the State of Massachusetts by cigarette manufacturers and made available to the public. See www.state.ma.us/dph/mtcp/report/smokereg.htm).
Breakdown information by "conventional" versus "reduced-risk" tobacco products (e.g., RJ Reynolds' Eclipse, Brown & Williamson/Star Scientific's Ariva, and Vector's soon-to-be released low nicotine tobacco cigarette, Omni Free).
Information on magazine advertising in magazines with youth readership rates in excess of 15% or 2 million youth readers.
Information on sales, marketing, and promotions in adult-only establishments, venues, and publications.
Information on television advertising by cigarette companies (e.g., Philip Morris) touting charitable activities.
Information on "anti-tobacco" television advertising by cigarette companies (e.g., Philip Morris).
Expanding the list of cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies subject to the submission of data for the FTC reports to the top 9 companies (based on market share) for cigarette sales and smokeless tobacco sales, respectively.
If the Commission decides to continue issuing reports, how frequently should they be issued (e.g., annually, biennially)? Why?
The American Heart Association believes that the current frequency of the FTC reports is adequate. However, the need for current information is substantial enough that we suggest including more recent data in the FTC reports. For instance, the FTC Cigarette Report for 1999 was issued in 2001, which helps to identify historical trends, but doesn't provide the current "snapshot" of tobacco industry activities.
What other information should the Commission consider in deciding whether to continue reporting on the sales and advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products? If the Commission decides to issue future reports, what formats would be useful?
The Federal Trade Commission needs to understand that they are the only government source that provides reliable and accurate information on the marketing and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco -- products that are largely unregulated by the federal government. Without FTC reports, the American Heart Association specifically, and the public in general, would be left without the necessary information to craft activities to promote health and prevent disease. Indeed, even with the FTC reports, the amount of information remains lacking. Again, the American Heart Association urges the Federal Trade Commission to continue issuing its reports on the sale, advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Thank you for your consideration.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Morbidity and Mortality: 1998 Chartbook on Cardiovascular, Lung, and Blood Diseases. Bethesda, MD: Public Health Service (PHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), NHLBI, October 1998.
American Heart Association. 2001 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association, 2000.
MMWR, Vol. 46, No. 20, 1997, CDC/NCHS.
The Economic Costs of Smoking in the U.S. and Benefits of Comprehensive Tobacco Legislation, U.S. Treasury Dept., March 1998.