September 6, 2023

The Honorable Guy Reschenthaler
Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Don Davis
Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus, 118th Congress

Dear Chairs Reschenthaler and Davis,        

We write to congratulate you on the formation of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus for the 118th Congress. As an ideologically diverse group of public policy organizations, we are brought together by our commitment to elevating the importance of tobacco harm reduction as an essential approach to addressing disease and death brought by smoking combustible cigarettes. We therefore commend your bipartisan efforts to do the same in Congress and look forward to working with you to ensure success.

As you know, despite significant declines, combustible cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 30 million Americans smoke combustible cigarettes and more than 16 million are living with disease caused by smoking. Smoking contributes to 1 in 5 deaths in America: 480,000 premature deaths every year, including more than 41,000 from secondhand smoke. In addition to the loss of life, smoking costs our economy more than $600 billion per year.

The safest option when it comes to tobacco is for individuals to quit, and for young people never to start. We have made real progress in preventing youth smoking, nearly halving the number of young people who smoke in the past decade. But there is more work to be done, which is why we are gratified to see youth prevention listed among your caucus priorities.

Smoking remains an intractable issue for millions of American adults, and we must leave no stone unturned in considering policies to improve health equity and save lives.

Every year, more than half of adults who smoke try to quit, but fewer than 8 percent actually do so. And just as the harms of combustible cigarette smoking disproportionately fall on people of color, veterans and service members, LGBTQ people, and poor, rural and disabled Americans, quitting is especially difficult in these populations. These individuals and their families are worth the exploration of every tool that could reduce the harms of tobacco.

Public health, compassion, personal autonomy and pragmatism demand that we continue to invest in prevention and cessation, and get serious about exploring harm reduction. This calls for a paradigm shift from well-intentioned but harmful prohibitionist policies that could increase negative interactions with police, especially in communities of color. The adoption of harm reduction practices can increase quit rates and decrease health risks for many adults who are unable or unwilling to quit using available cessation products and strategies.

As organizations working in harm reduction and with people impacted by the harms of smoking, we applaud the inclusion of tobacco harm reduction in the conversation. We are gratified by President Joe Biden’s support for opioid harm reduction, and hope to see those principles applied to tobacco and beyond. We believe that right-sized policies can keep youth safe and help millions of Americans seeking an effective off-ramp from smoking.

For additional information, please contact Alexandra Perez at [email protected].


Americans for Tax Reform

Blacks in Law Enforcement of America

The Black Police Experience

CAN-DO Foundation

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association

Consumer Choice Center

Drug Policy Alliance

Due Process Institute

Hispanic Leadership Fund

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

R Street Institute

Reason Foundation

Taxpayers Protection Alliance