Democrats Likely To Propose FDA Regulation of Tobacco
The new Democratic majority in Congress could spur the introduction of legislation that would give FDA regulatory power over tobacco companies, the Wall Street Journal reports. With "[l]oyal Republican allies of big tobacco ... now in the minority," the public might see "all sorts of ideas floated that had sunk quickly before."
One idea expected to be proposed is increased regulation of cigarette manufacturing and marketing.
Cigarette maker Philip Morris USA -- which controls 50.4% of the market share -- has come out in favor of such regulation. Smaller cigarette companies believe they would be hurt because "they would have fewer ways to promote themselves" while Philip Morris' name recognition would allow the company to keep its current market share, the Journal reports.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) are expected to introduce legislation that would give FDA the authority to regulate tobacco.
Kennedy would like to hold hearings on the legislation in February and have a committee vote in March.
Additional legislative possibilities include the following:
- Requiring cigarette manufacturers to reduce nicotine levels to zero;
- Increasing the excise tax, currently at the 1997 level of 39 cents;
- Ratifying the terms of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which would ban terms such as "low tar" or "light" and require text or pictorial warnings to cover at least 30% of each cigarette pack;
- Limiting Internet sales of tobacco products; and
- Providing states additional power to ensure state taxes were paid on cigarettes.
Steven Parrish, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Philip Morris parent company Altria, said, "Legislation that reduces the serious harm caused by smoking would be a very good development, and it is not about giving a competitive advantage to any one company."
Waxman said, "I don't care about Philip Morris's interests," adding, "Cigarettes -- as dangerous as they are -- are the only consumer products that are completely unregulated by the federal government" (O'Connell/Mullins, Wall Street Journal, 1/25).