Senate Panel To Discuss Bill To Let FDA Oversee Tobacco
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday plans to hold a hearing on a bill that would allow FDA to regulate tobacco products, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports.
Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced the legislation, which would require FDA to:
- Regulate levels of tar, nicotine and other ingredients in tobacco products (AP/Baltimore Sun, 7/17);
- Prohibit magazine and point-of-sale advertisements for tobacco products (Lopes, Washington Times, 7/17);
- Review new tobacco products before they enter the market;
- Establish national standards for the production of tobacco products; and
- Require the disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products.
The bill "is expected to pass easily" in the committee but "faces resistance from both sides of the debate" in the full Senate, CongressDaily reports. Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who is "ardently anti-tobacco," opposes the legislation because of concerns that approval of tobacco products by FDA would prompt consumers to believe they are safe, according to CongressDaily.
Kennedy spokesperson Michael Mahaffey said that, under a revised version of the bill, FDA would approve the right of tobacco companies to market their products, rather than the products themselves.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he opposes the bill.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has introduced companion legislation in the House.
Enzi said, "Authors of this bill are playing crafty word games with a flawed bill without addressing its core problem: It doesn't stop people from using tobacco" (Edney, CongressDaily, 7/17).
Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said, "The problem is the public is going to perceive the product is safe because the FDA has assumed jurisdiction."
However, American Heart Association CEO M. Cass Wheeler said, "The bill would put the burden of proof on industry to demonstrate to the FDA that what they're doing would not be more harmful" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 7/17).
William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The status quo is what gives cigarettes a stamp of approval. Companies can say anything they want about it" (CongressDaily, 7/17).
Carol Springstun -- a spokesperson for Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA -- said, "We believe regulation of tobacco products by the FDA would establish a comprehensive national tobacco policy that could potentially create a competitive framework within which manufacturers are focused on reducing the harm of tobacco use causes" and "would also bring predictability and clear standards to the tobacco industry in the United States."
Other tobacco companies maintain that restrictions on ads included in the legislation would help Philip Morris remain the market leader in the industry (Washington Times, 7/17).