Senators Introduce Tobacco-Related Bills on FDA Regulation, Buyout
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) yesterday announced that the committee would consider a bill that would give the FDA authority over tobacco advertising, manufacturing and distribution, the Washington Post reports. The legislation would give the FDA authority to restrict tobacco advertising targeted to children and to require changes to tobacco products. The bill would also establish stricter guidelines for determining whether tobacco manufacturers can advertise redesigned cigarettes as less harmful to health (Kaufman, Washington Post, 8/1). However, the FDA would not have the authority to ban cigarettes.
In related news, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday introduced a tobacco buyout bill -- which would likely be paired with the FDA regulation bill -- that would pay tobacco farmers $13 billion to stop growing tobacco, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/1). Under the proposal, tobacco farmers who own quotas would receive $8 per pound of tobacco they were allowed to grow in 2002; farmers who rent tobacco allotments from quota owners would receive $4 per pound. The tobacco manufacturers would fund the buyout. Farmers would be paid over six years (Zuckerbrod, AP/Evansville Courier & Press, 7/31). The buyout would be funded by fees on cigarette makers (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/1). The Senate buyout bill comes after Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Thomas Davis (R-Va.) introduced legislation that would provide tobacco farmers a one-time payment to stop growing tobacco. The bill, which would cost $15 billion to $16 billion, would also give the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products (California Healthline, 7/25).
While the "combination of the two bills faces stiff competition," Senate Republicans support legislation to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco and the bills "have a better chance of passage" than past bills that would have let the FDA regulate tobacco, the Post reports. Many of the "toughest opponents" of FDA regulation -- legislators from tobacco states, tobacco growers and Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest tobacco company -- support the legislation (Washington Post, 8/1). Philip Morris USA CEO Michael Szymanczyk last week urged members of the House Agriculture Committee to support the House FDA tobacco regulation bill (American Health Line, 7/25). However, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Executive Vice President Tommy Payne said, "We have very serious concerns with this bill," arguing that the legislation "offers advantages that Philip Morris could exploit because of its size" and "goes well beyond any FDA bill previously introduced," the Post reports. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said public health groups are reviewing the legislation (Washington Post, 8/1). NPR's "Morning Edition" today reported on the tobacco buyout under consideration by Congress, which has caused tobacco state lawmakers to "forge an unlikely coalition" with public health groups and anti-tobacco advocates. The segment includes comments from Brown & Williamson Vice President of External Affairs Brennan Dawson, Myers, Payne and Reps. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) and Ken Lucas (D-Ky.) (Elliott, "Morning Edition," NPR, 8/1). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.