Letter Warns of White House Opposition to FDA Tobacco Regulation
In a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Monday, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the Bush administration "would strongly oppose" legislation (S 625, HR 1108) that would give FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports.
The letter is the "strongest indication yet that the administration will try to block the broadly popular legislation," which is supported by majorities in both the House and Senate, the AP/Journal reports. Although a floor vote is expected in the House this summer, a "protracted battle with the White House could doom chances for passing the bill this year," according to the AP/Journal (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 7/23).
Leavitt wrote that the administration has "serious concerns" that the measure could overwhelm FDA by saddling it with "significant added responsibility" inconsistent with its primary goal of ensuring the safety of food, drugs and medical devices.
The letter also said that "adding tobacco to FDA's regulatory responsibilities could also leave the public with the misperception that tobacco products are safe, or at least safer, with the FDA regulating them," noting a "perverse and unintended consequence of lowering the perceived risk of tobacco" (Saul, New York Times, 7/23).
The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 38-12 to approve the bill in April, with 11 Republicans voting for it (CongressDaily, 7/23).