Move by House Republicans Could Derail FDA Tobacco Regulation Legislation
House Republican leaders on Friday attached a tobacco grower buyout bill to separate tax legislation, a move that "threatens to derail" a bipartisan bill that would allow broad FDA control over tobacco products, the Washington Post reports (Kaufman, Washington Post, 6/5). The FDA tobacco regulation legislation, introduced last month by Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate and Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House, would allow FDA to regulate the sale, distribution and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Under the bills, FDA would have the authority to require tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products. FDA also could ban some ingredients in cigarettes and reduce, but not eliminate, the amount of nicotine in them. The legislation also would mandate that tobacco companies could not use the terms "light" and "ultra-light" to market cigarettes without FDA approval. However, FDA could not ban cigarettes or require the elimination of nicotine from tobacco products. FDA also could not regulate tobacco growers, require prescriptions for tobacco products or raise the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products. A fee charged to tobacco companies would cover the cost of the bills (California Healthline, 5/21). The House tobacco grower buyout bill would use five cents of a 15 cent federal cigarette tax to fund a five-year, $9.6 billion buyout of the quota system used to regulate tobacco crops (Heil, CongressDaily, 6/4).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) attached the tobacco grower buyout bill to the corporate tax reform legislation bill that lawmakers must vote to approve or reject without amendment; the Senate has passed a similar tax bill without the attached tobacco grower buyout legislation (Washington Post, 6/5). According to CongressDaily, Senate leaders had planned to attach the tobacco grower buyout and FDA tobacco regulation bills, "neither of which was expected to garner the necessary votes on its own." A spokesperson for Kennedy said, "There are a great many people who will oppose the buyout without a link to the FDA bill," adding that Kennedy is "reserving all his options" and may move to block the tobacco buyout legislation (CongressDaily, 6/4). A DeWine spokesperson added that House lawmakers would face "pushback" from the Senate if they pass the tobacco grower buyout bill without the FDA tobacco regulation legislation. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, "I oppose a tobacco quota buyout that denies FDA oversight of tobacco products. It would be especially wrong to finance a buyout with taxpayer dollars but not regulate tobacco companies in selling their dangerous products" (Washington Post, 6/5). However, House observers said that the Senate "may swallow the buyout because of other sweeteners the House included," CongressDaily reports. An unnamed House Republican staff member said that the House tobacco grower buyout bill "has a little something for everyone that is much more important than a regulatory scheme at FDA" (CongressDaily, 6/4). William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, criticized the House tobacco grower buyout bill as "a sweetheart deal for tobacco companies and a raw deal for public health, taxpayers and tobacco growers" (Washington Post, 6/5).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.