Senate HELP Committee Approves Bill That Would Allow FDA To Regulate Tobacco
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday voted 15-8 to approve a bill (S 982) giving FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, the Wall Street Journal reports. Under the bill, FDA could ban certain tobacco products, such as candy-flavored cigarettes, restrict tobacco advertising to black-and-white ads, and prohibit use of the terms "mild" and "low tar" (Yoest/Mundy, Wall Street Journal, 5/21). FDA also could limit the amount of nicotine in tobacco products, as well as enlarge warning labels. To pay for the new regulatory efforts, the bill would require all tobacco companies to pay a fee that would raise nearly $5.4 billion over the first 10 years.
Committee members voted down a number of amendments:
- An amendment by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) that would have created a new HHS agency to regulate tobacco that would have less authority than the bill gives to FDA. The amendment also would have banned all print advertisements for tobacco.
- Another amendment by Hagan would have limited cigarette testing to U.S. laboratories.
- An amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) would have allowed FDA to regulate medical marijuana (Hunt/Posner, CongressDaily, 5/21).
HELP ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) offered amendments to impose larger penalties on tobacco companies that violate the legislation and limit the authorization for legislation to seven years. He later withdrew them after Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) promised that senators would evaluate the proposals before the bill goes to the floor.
Dodd said that the legislation could come to the Senate floor as soon as the first week in June. Dodd indicated that he is confident the bill will pass despite a threat of a filibuster from senators representing tobacco-producing states, such as Burr (Armstrong, CQ Today, 5/20). Similar legislation in the House (HR 1256) was approved in April; it does not include changes to tobacco products' warning labels (CongressDaily, 5/21).
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