April 2, 2009

Dear Senator,

Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R.1256) with broad bipartisan support. On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, I urge you to build on this momentum and adopt this legislation. Your support is critical to pass this potentially life-saving bill that would authorize the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.

Tobacco products kill more than 400,000 a.m.ericans each year, an alarming epidemic of addiction and disease. A report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that between 1998 and 2004, tobacco companies secretly and significantly increased the levels of nicotine in cigarette smoke.

Currently, the FDA has the authority to regulate the safety of everyday items from cold medicine to cookies, but has no authority over tobacco. Granting FDA authority to regulate tobacco products would help prevent companies from adding additional deadly and addictive ingredients, enforce the prohibition on manufacturing candy-flavored cigarettes, prevent tobacco sales to children and limit advertising designed to lure children into a deadly habit. Granting the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products will aid the protection of consumers and our children.

The Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides’ taught that “Seeing that keeping the body healthy and whole is the way of God, for it is impossible to understand or know anything about the Creator if one is sick, therefore a person must distance himself from things that destroy the body and accustom himself to things which heal the body.” These words are as true today as when they were written in medieval times.

To protect Americans, particularly children, from tobacco addiction and disease, I urge you to help ensure passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and work toward its speedy enactment.


Rabbi David Saperstein