Senate Will Vote On Tobacco Bill Today
The Senate is to vote on an extensive tobacco control bill expected to gain approval today. The bill would "give the Food and Drug Administration legal authority to regulate the sale, manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products" and "give the federal government broad new powers to monitor and change a toxic substance that contributes to some 400,000 deaths every year," according to the Associated Press. "Supporters hailed it as a milestone in efforts to reduce smoking," the AP notes.
The House has already passed a similar bill. If the Senate measure is approved, a final version--after resolution of relatively minor differences between it and the House bill--would be sent to President Barack Obama. The AP reports that "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 AP reports that "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....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" (Abrams, 6/11).
NPR also reported on the legislation, describing the 10-year struggle to regulate tobacco products. It noted tobacco manufacturers' displeasure and cited a statement they produced: "Congress should not be burdening the FDA with a new responsibility over a multibillion-dollar industry when it is failing presently to preserve its core mission" (Silberner, 6/10).