Senate to vote on FDA power to regulate tobacco

June 11, 2009 By JIM ABRAMS , Associated Press Writer
Senate to vote on FDA power to regulate tobacco (AP)
In this Jan. 9, 2009 file photo, Sen. Dick Durbin, talks with reporters during a news conference in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

(AP) -- A tobacco control bill set to win Senate approval would give the federal government broad new powers to monitor and change a toxic substance that contributes to some 400,000 deaths every year.

The legislation, heading for a vote Thursday, would for the first time give the Food and Drug Administration legal authority to regulate the sale, manufacturing and marketing of products.

Supporters hailed it as a milestone in efforts to reduce smoking, comparable to the 1964 surgeon general's warning that smoking causes lung cancer, the 1990 banning of smoking on planes and the 1998 settlement in which the tobacco industry pledged the states $206 billion to help fund anti-tobacco campaigns.

"This moment has been coming for 20 years," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat. "We're going to be able to protect millions of children and Americans from deadly tobacco-related disease."

The House has already passed a similar bill, and resolution of relatively minor differences would send it to President Barack Obama. Unlike former President George W. Bush, who fought previous FDA regulation bills, Obama supports it.

Congress has been trying to exert government controls over tobacco, one of the few consumable products not regulated by the FDA, for well more than a decade. That effort became more imperative after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2000, ruled that the FDA did not have the authority to oversee tobacco products under current law.

The bill would allow the FDA to require changes to nicotine yields and other chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products, although it could not ban nicotine. It would require tobacco companies to provide detailed lists of ingredients and any changes in those ingredients.

The bill would ban the use of expressions such as "light" and "mild" that might mislead people into thinking there was less health risk in the product.

The FDA would also have the power to restrict tobacco marketing; require pre-market approval of all new tobacco products; ban candied or flavored tobacco products that anti-smoking groups see as a way to entice young people into smoking; limit ads in publications with significant teen readership; and impose stronger warning labels on cigarette packages.

The new FDA office would be financed through a user fee paid by tobacco companies, based on their share of the market. Earlier this year, Congress raised the federal cigarette tax, by 62 cents to $1.01, to help pay for expansion of a federal health program for children.

Anti-smoking groups predicted the legislation could have a real effect in cutting into the 3,500 young people who smoke cigarettes for the first time every day, the 40 million Americans who smoke and the $100 billion in annual health care costs related to treatment of tobacco-related illnesses.

"This bill has the power to finally break the dangerous chain of addiction for millions of Americans and save them from a lifetime of dependence, disease and premature death that comes from tobacco use," said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Lawmakers portrayed the bill as a major first step in bringing down health care costs, an essential goal of the health care overhaul legislation that is the top priority of the Obama administration this year.

"This bill may do more in the area of prevention, if adopted, than anything else we may include in the bill in the short term," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who managed the bill on the Senate floor in the absence of the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the bill's main sponsor.

Opponents, led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of the tobacco-growing state of North Carolina, argued that the , which is in charge of ensuring the safety of food and drug products, was the wrong place to regulate an item that is injurious to health.

He also contended that the bill would restrict tobacco companies, including several based in his state, from developing new products that might be less harmful to users. He unsuccessfully proposed the creation of a new agency that would both regulate tobacco products and encourage efforts to make cigarettes less harmful.

---

The bill is H.R. 1256.

On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Study suggests possible link between highly processed foods and cancer

February 14, 2018
A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between intake of highly processed ("ultra-processed") food in the diet and cancer.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.