Senate, House Bills Introduced To Allow FDA To Regulate Tobacco Products
Lawmakers on Thursday introduced identical bills in the Senate and House that would allow "broad federal regulatory control" over tobacco products, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The legislation, introduced 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 (Hardin, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/21). However, FDA could not ban cigarettes or require the elimination of nicotine from tobacco products (Zuckerbrod, AP/Detroit News, 5/21). FDA also could not regulate tobacco growers, require prescriptions for tobacco products or raise the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products (Heil, CongressDaily, 5/20). Under the bills, FDA would have the authority to require tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products (Heil, CongressDaily, 5/21). FDA also could ban some ingredients in cigarettes and reduce, but not eliminate, the amount of nicotine in them (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/21). The legislation also would mandate that tobacco companies could not use the terms "light" and "ultra-light" to market cigarettes without FDA approval (AP/Detroit News, 5/21). A fee charged to tobacco companies would cover the cost of the bills, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 5/20). Public health groups and Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. tobacco company, support the bills. However, other large tobacco companies oppose the legislation (AP/Detroit News, 5/21).
According to the CQ Today, the bipartisan group of lawmakers that supports the bills "faces serious obstacles in enacting their proposals this year" -- the "legislative calendar is short, House and Senate leaders have yet to sign on and their bill lacks support" from Senate and House leaders. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who participated in negotiations on similar legislation that ended last year, said that he "does not support the new bill." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) also have not expressed support for the legislation. Davis said, "If this came to a vote, it would not pass. The question is, how to pressure it?" (Jalonick, CQ Today, 5/20).
Lawmakers "may try to link proposals for a multibillion-dollar buyout of tobacco farmers with the FDA legislation in a political 'megadeal'" the Times-Dispatch reports (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/21). Kennedy said that interest in tobacco grower buyout legislation "provides a golden opportunity" to pass FDA tobacco regulation legislation (CongressDaily, 5/21). Kennedy predicted that the combined bill will pass this year (CongressDaily, 5/20). However, supporters of FDA tobacco regulation have raised concerns that "including the buyout on the tax bill would kill their chance to link FDA and buyout proposals." Mathew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said, "Passing the buyout that way would be bad policy and bad politics" (CQ Today, 5/20).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.