House Committees Hold Hearings on Possible FDA Authority To Regulate Tobacco Products
Two House committees today will hold hearings on issues related to whether the FDA should regulate tobacco products, the Washington Post reports. The first hearing, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will include testimony from Surgeon General Richard Carmona and Federal Trade Commission Chair Timothy Muris on whether companies could sell tobacco products in less dangerous forms. A second hearing before the House Government Reform Committee will review the effect of tobacco products on public health and "examine what sort of regulatory structure would best ensure the development of products designed to provide tobacco users with less dangerous sources of nicotine than conventional cigarettes," committee Chair Thomas Davis (R-Va.) said. According to the Post, "there is a growing chance" that Congress will pass a bill this session to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products, a move supported by Republican lawmakers and Philip Morris USA. John Nelson, president of operations and technology for Philip Morris, predicted a "better than 50-50 chance" that Congress this year will pass such legislation. Philip Morris and some other tobacco companies favor FDA regulation of tobacco products because current "regulatory confusion" could limit the health claims that they can make in advertisements for new "safer" cigarettes, the Post reports.
However, some anti-tobacco advocates raise concerns that the Republican-controlled House and Senate will pass legislation that benefits the tobacco industry, which has made large contributions to GOP candidates in recent years, and "not tough enough to protect the public health," the Post reports. "The tobacco industry has poured money into this Congress, and it is clearly hoping that these hearings will serve as an impetus for political payback," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said. A spokesperson for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that Kennedy would work with Republican lawmakers to reach compromise on the issue. President Bush has not taken a position on the issue (Washington Post, 6/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.