Political briefs – Oct. 5


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WITH NEW REPORT THAT MILLIONS OF MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE TURNING TO FLAVORED TOBACCO PRODUCTS, BROWN RENEWS PUSH TO KEEP TOBACCO PRODUCTS OUT OF THE HANDS OF CHILDREN AND TEENS – Following new data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) showing that millions of children and teens are using flavored tobacco products, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) renewed efforts to keep tobacco products out of youth’s hands. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.26 million youth tobacco users had used at least one flavored tobacco product in the last 30 days. While current law prevents companies from flavoring cigarettes, items like cigars and e-cigarettes are available in flavors and their use has been on the rise. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet finalized deeming regulations that would give the agency the same regulatory power it has over cigarettes to other unregulated tobacco products, like e-cigarettes and hookah – which are often marketed in flavors that are appealing to youth.

“Today’s report is alarming. While FDA delays regulations on e-cigarettes, more children and teenagers are becoming addicted,” said Brown. “This report – coauthored by the very agency that has the power to regulate these products – should serve as a strong reminder should that these regulations are long overdue. Our country has come a long way on tobacco products – we’ve banned the marketing of cigarettes to children, we’ve prohibited their sale to minors, and we’ve helped people find ways to quit once they are hooked. But we need to do more to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place.”

Brown has repeatedly urged the Obama Administration to finalize tobacco deeming regulation that would give the agency the same regulatory authority it has over cigarettes to currently unregulated products like e-cigarettes and hookah.

According to CDC, e-cigarette use increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014 among high school students, and from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 among middle school students. The FDA’s proposed rule was released more than one year ago – on April 25, 2014 – but has not yet been finalized. In March and June of this year, Brown sent letters to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell urging her to finalize these rules. Brown has also introduced legislation to close loopholes in the tax code that allow the tobacco industry to avoid paying taxes on their products. The Tobacco Tax Equity Act would simplify and equalize taxes on all tobacco products, including existing products that currently fall into loopholes as well as new products like e-cigarettes.

PORTMAN AMENDMENT TO IMPROVE MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO UKRAINE INCLUDED IN NDAA – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, announced that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 includes key elements of his Ukraine security assistance amendment. Portman originally introduced his amendment in June as part of his efforts to provide targeted and effective military assistance to Ukraine as it struggles to defend itself against Russian aggression. The NDAA Conference Agreement was released last evening.

“The Ukrainian people have made enormous sacrifices in their efforts to secure a democratic future for their country,” Portman stated. “As their ally, it’s up to us to ensure that U.S. military assistance not only provides enough resources and equipment to allow Ukraine to defend themselves, but is also implemented effectively so that it has a meaningful impact on the ground. Russia has invaded a sovereign country and now NATO and the U.S. must provide sustained economic, political, and military support to enable Ukraine to secure a democratic future.”

As modified by Portman’s amendment and negotiations with the House of Representatives, the NDAA authorizes $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine and directs the Secretary of Defense to provide critical capabilities the Ukrainians need most, including real-time intelligence, medium and long-range counter-artillery radars, defensive lethal assistance such as anti-tank weapons, UAVs, secure communications, and training to develop key combat, planning, and support capabilities. $50 million is reserved exclusively for the most urgent capabilities the Ukrainians need and have requested: defensive lethal assistance and counter-artillery radars.

BROWN AND TILLIS INTRODUCE BILL TO HELP DISABLED VETERANS FIND LONG-TERM EMPLOYMENT– U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today introduced the Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act of 2015 to help veterans with service-connect disabilities find and retain employment. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.

“Veterans injured while serving their country deserve our help in building careers when they return home and transition to civilian life,” said Brown. “This bill would ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs can continue to provide wounded warriors with exceptional care, training, and support.”

“The men and women who served our nation deserve all opportunities possible to successfully transition into civilian careers after their service,” said Tillis. “Veteran support and counsel is a vital step in that transition process and we must ensure the VA has the resources they need to improve training and rehabilitation.”

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