Senate Bill To Allow FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products Could Pass This Year, Supporters Say
Republican supporters of a Senate bill that would allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products on Thursday said that efforts to pass the legislation this year are "not dead," despite disagreements with opponents who maintain that the bill is "not strong enough," CongressDaily reports (Heil, CongressDaily, 10/2). The bill, sponsored by Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), would allow the FDA to eliminate nicotine from cigarettes and require the agency to publicly list by brand levels of harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. The legislation also would allow the FDA to restrict tobacco advertisements targeted to children and establish new guidelines to determine whether tobacco companies can advertise redesigned cigarettes as less harmful to health. The bill would not allow the FDA to ban tobacco products. Negotiations on the bill stalled on Wednesday after Gregg and Democrats could not agree on the level of authority that the agency should have (California Healthline, 10/2). However, Gregg said Thursday that the legislation may still reach the Senate floor this year. "These things have a way of resurrecting around here ... like a phoenix," Gregg said. DeWine said that he has continued discussions with Gregg and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in an effort to develop a bill that could pass, adding that the two sides are "not very far apart" (CongressDaily, 10/2). Scott Ballin, head of a coalition of tobacco growers and community groups that support the legislation, said that "there is a slim chance" negotiations on the bill could continue, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Mitchell/Hardin, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/3).
The impasse in negotiations on the FDA tobacco regulation bill highlights the "fragility of what had been a carefully constructed set of political alliances" between Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. tobacco company, and public health advocates, the Wall Street Journal reports. Philip Morris joined many public health advocates in support of the legislation, despite opposition from other tobacco companies, "reasoning that agreeing to this now might prevent more draconian measures" in the future, the Journal reports (O'Connell, Wall Street Journal, 10/3). However, after negotiations on the bill stalled on Wednesday, many public health advocates criticized Philip Morris for "insisting on weak regulation," the Washington Post reports (Kaufman, Washington Post, 10/3). Public health groups and Democrats criticized the role of Philip Morris in the development of the legislation, which they said could establish a "loophole for tobacco companies to undermine the FDA's ability to demand changes in the ingredients of cigarettes" and allow the companies to challenge the FDA in court, the Journal reports. "Unfortunately, it appears that the Republicans in the Senate, under the influence of the tobacco industry, pulled out all the stops to protect the special treatment it currently enjoys," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said. Gregg has said that he included the provision cited by Democrats to prevent establishment of a black market for tobacco products, but public health advocates have said that Gregg should clarify the language in the bill to "prevent that provision from being abused," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/3). Meanwhile, Philip Morris officials on Thursday said that the anti-tobacco group Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids joined with other tobacco companies to help block the legislation, the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/3). NPR's "Day to Day" on Thursday discussed the legislation with "Marketplace" correspondent Tess Vigeland. The segment includes comments from American University law professor Lewis Grossman (Chadwick, "Day to Day," NPR, 10/2). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
The FDA tobacco regulation bill, which Gregg has said would "save lives," could "kill people instead," Jacob Sullum, a nationally syndicated columnist, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to Sullum, the bill would allow the FDA to block the introduction of safer tobacco products to the market based on "risks and benefits the population as a whole," not "necessarily what is good for individual smokers." For example, he writes, the FDA could block the introduction of a "demonstrably safer cigarette" to the market because the product could "discourage current users from quitting or lure new users," although some smokers would benefit from the product. Sullum concludes that "it's wrong to insist that accurate, potentially lifesaving information be withheld from consumers because they might not use it the 'right' way" (Sullum, Washington Times, 10/3).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.