Senate Begins Debate On FDA Regulation Of Tobacco
The Senate began debate Tuesday on whether to grant the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate tobacco products, Reuters reports. Debate began after an 84-11 procedural vote and could continue into next week. The Democratic-backed bill "would let the FDA oversee the packaging, marketing and manufacturing of cigarettes and other tobacco products, which have been linked to cancer and other illnesses and kill 400,000 Americans each year."
President Barack Obama, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and hundreds of health advocacy groups support it. The nation's largest cigarette maker, Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris unit, also supports the bill, but several other tobacco companies do not, according to Reuters.
"A report by the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that analyzes legislation, said the bill would add $900 million to the U.S. budget deficit between 2010 and 2019, adding that it is difficult to assess the financial impact reduced tobacco use would have on healthcare costs," Reuters said.
Differences between the Senate measure and House-passed bill "would have to be worked out by congressional negotiators before a final bill could be signed into law by Obama." Democrats also say they have sufficient votes to approve the measure "but the margin could be slim" (Heavey, 6/2).
CQ reports that "versions of the legislation have passed one chamber or the other in previous Congresses, but always stalled short of final action." It also noted that the House first passed the bill April 2 by a vote of 298-112 (Armstrong, 6/2).