Stephen BuyerU.S. Representative
[R] Indiana, United States

Length: 5 minutes, 26 seconds

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Mr. BUYER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

It is nicotine that causes the consumption of tobacco. So I understand how truly, in my words, outraged then Chairman Waxman was and still is with regard to testimony that occurred years ago when he was the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health.

Now, if it is the nicotine from which adult users receive their satisfaction, the real issue is how do they gain access to nicotine in a manner that reduces their health risk? That's the issue. That's my passion.

I am not a smoker. I don't advocate for people to smoke. My charge and challenge is how do we improve public health in our country? And I don't want this abstinence-only approach. So if it's nicotine for which people want to gain access to and it's an adult product, then shouldn't we be trying to figure out methods or products where people can gain access to nicotine that is less harmful? During the debate on the rule, Madam Speaker, I would share to my colleague, Chairman Waxman, an individual brought up a head of lettuce and said that there is more regulation on a head of lettuce than tobacco. And I guess it was an effort to be cute, but the real point here is what I shared, Madam Speaker, and to my friend Mr. Waxman, you could have smoked that lettuce and you would still end up with the same problems. You could cut the grass in your yard, dry it and roll it up in a cigarette and smoke it, and you're still going to have a lot of problems. It is the smoke that kills, not the nicotine. It's the smoke.

So when you look and you say, well, if the smoke is the killer because of the inhalation of the tobacco smoke, that's responsible for the pandemic of cancers, heart disease, respiratory disease, and these deadly results.

So I'm going back to this harm reduction. So despite decades of intense efforts to eradicate smoking, more than 40 million adults continue to smoke cigarettes, and they're likely to continue because we don't have this ability to migrate them to other products. It's extremely important, when we talk about a harm-reduction strategy, that not only is it the access to a particular product, it is the education of the people at large as to what type of products that they can avail themselves to that have less harmful health results. That should be our goal and that has been embraced.

The American Association of Public Health Physicians noted last year, Enhancement of current policies based on the premise that all tobacco products are equally risky will yield only small and barely measurable reductions in tobacco-related illness and death.

So in the public debate, there is sort of this presumption that all tobacco products are harmful. Well, all tobacco products have a degree of health hazards, but some are more harmful than others. So cigar and pipe are not subject to this legislation; yet they are the most harmful to the human body of all of the carcinogens that can be inhaled.

So how do we migrate people? And I think that's what is extremely important. And let's stop this premise that all tobacco products are equally risky; that Swedish snus, even though it's 98 percent less harmful than an unfiltered cigarette, should not be treated as though they're both just as harmful. They're not. If you're able to pasteurize and take away the nitrosamines, yet people can gain access to their nicotine, you know what? That ought to be something we should talk about. That ought to be something we should promote.

And the reason, Madam Speaker, that if we just turn this over to the FDA, like Chairman Waxman has just suggested, and let them come up with these strategies, it's not going to be able to get into the hands of the American people because of the 2-tiered standard that has been set in this legislation.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.