House Approves Measure To Give FDA Regulatory Authority Over Tobacco
By a 326-102 veto-proof vote on Wednesday, the House approved legislation (HR 1108) that would give FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, the New York Times reports (Saul, New York Times, 7/31).
The measure, introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), would:
- Allow FDA to ban flavored additives, with an exemption for menthol flavoring (Yoest, Wall Street Journal, 7/31);
- Give FDA the ability to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes but not remove the drug altogether;
- Allow the agency to mandate reducing nicotine to "nonaddictive levels" if it determines doing so would benefit public health;
- Allow the agency to require changes to tobacco products, such as reducing or eliminating harmful ingredients, according to the Times;
- Not allow the agency to ban cigarettes outright (New York Times, 7/31);
- Grant FDA authority over tobacco product advertising (Wall Street Journal, 7/31);
- Require tobacco companies to replace the current warning labels on cigarette packages with "graphic images of the physical ravages often caused by cigarettes," according to the Times;
- Require tobacco companies to disclose the type and quantities of certain ingredients, such as ammonia and acetaldehyde, that are believed to work with nicotine to increase cigarettes' addictiveness;
- Require tobacco companies to disclose internal research on the effects of such additives;
- Prohibit tobacco companies from labeling their cigarettes as "light" or "ultralight"; and
- Mandate that any outdoor cigarette advertising or ads in publications seen by children be in black and white "to reduce their visual allure," according to the Times (New York Times, 7/31).
The Bush administration opposes the measure, saying giving FDA authority over tobacco products would put too much pressure on an already overburdened agency, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 7/31).
In its statement of administration position, the White House said that allowing FDA to regulate tobacco products could "lead the public to mistakenly conclude some tobacco products are safe." The administration also said that the fees levied to pay for FDA regulation of the products would amount to a "new tax that would be paid disproportionately by low-income individuals" (Armstrong , CQ Today, 7/30).
White House officials also said the bill could affect international trade agreements by banning some imported tobacco products (Washington Post, 7/31).
Despite the opposition from the Bush administration, 96 Republicans crossed party lines and voted for the measure, the AP/Florida Times-Union reports.
Both presumptive presidential nominees Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) support the measure, according to the AP/Times-Union (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Florida Times-Union, 7/30).
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the measure would cost about $2.2 billion over five years (Armstrong , CQ Today, 7/30).
User fees assessed by FDA on the tobacco industry would create about $5 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to CongressDaily (Edney, CongressDaily, 7/31).
Philip Morris USA supports the measure, but other tobacco companies oppose provisions to limit marketing and say that they would protect Philip Morris' position as the market leader (Simon, MediaGeneral/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/30).
The Senate version of the bill (S 625) "face[s] some formidable obstacles in the Senate, including a tight time frame in which to act," CQ Today reports (Armstrong , CQ Today, 7/30).
The measure, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), has 56 co-sponsors in the Senate. Melissa Wagoner, a spokesperson for Kennedy, said that they are waiting for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring the bill to the Senate floor (Armstrong , CQ Today, 7/30).
Sponsors of the bill said they hope the Senate will consider the bill after the August recess.
Regan Lachapelle, a Reid spokesperson, said that scheduling decisions for September have not yet been established.
Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) said he would block the bill when it reaches the floor. Enzi said he opposes any measure that does not ban tobacco products.
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) also support stricter legislation (Armstrong , CQ Today, 7/30).