House Passes Tobacco Buyout Without FDA Regulation Provision
House members on Thursday voted 280-141 to approve a buyout for tobacco farmers after a provision was removed earlier this week that would have allowed FDA to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, the Winston-Salem Journal reports (Hardin/Rice, Winston-Salem Journal, 10/7). The measure is part of a larger corporate tax bill (HR 4520) that was negotiated this week in a conference committee. In July, the Senate voted 78-15 to approve a version of the tax bill with a tobacco regulation provision in exchange for a 10-year, $12 billion buyout program financed by the tobacco industry that would eliminate federal quotas on the amount of tobacco farmers can grow. Under a version of the bill previously passed by the House, the federal government would finance the buyout program. The House version did not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision.
The version of the tax bill approved by the conference committee eliminates FDA regulation, reduces the tobacco buyout program to $7 billion and requires the tobacco industry, rather than the federal government, to cover the cost (California Healthline, 10/7). The bill moves to the Senate for a final vote, which could occur Friday or Saturday (Winston-Salem Journal, 10/8).
Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) earlier this week said they might attempt to filibuster the tax bill if it did not have the FDA provision; however, DeWine on Wednesday would not confirm whether he would attempt to do so (American Health Line, 10/7). Aides to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who supported FDA regulation, also said the senator has not decided whether to filibuster the bill (Norman, Des Moines Register, 10/7). It is not clear whether there are 60 votes to invoke cloture, which would end a filibuster and force a vote on the tax bill (American Health Line, 10/7).
Most tobacco companies opposed the FDA regulation proposal, but Philip Morris USA, an industry leader, "split from its tobacco rivals and backed the regulation," CQ Today reports (Jalonick, CQ Today, 10/7). Lorillard Tobacco spokesperson Steve Watson said the regulation proposal was too broad and would make it very difficult for new brands to become popular with cigarette smokers because of limits on advertising.
Philip Morris lobbyist John Scruggs said the company was not trying to guarantee a role as market leader but wanted guidelines on how to communicate with consumers about products the company is developing that could lower the risk of smoking-related diseases. Scruggs said, "We think the magnitude of the missed opportunity is hard to overstate. I think it's pretty clear that it's going to be exceptionally difficult to get FDA done without a buyout" (Zuckerbrod, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/7).
Anti-smoking advocates "lamented what appeared to be a vanishing opportunity" to pass FDA regulation, the Journal reports (Winston-Salem Journal, 10/8). American Cancer Society lobbyist Wendy Selig said, "We're extremely disappointed. Congress has missed this huge opportunity to do the right thing."
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The health imperative for this legislation is as great today as it has ever been" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/7).