Senate Passes Landmark Bill: FDA To Regulate Tobacco
The U.S. Senate joined the House in passing landmark legislation to regulate tobacco by a vote of 79-17.
The New York Times reports that "more than four decades after the surgeon general declared smoking a health hazard, the Senate on Thursday cleared the final hurdle to empowering federal officials to regulate cigarettes and other forms of tobacco for the first time. The legislation, which the White House said President Obama would sign as soon as it reached his desk, will enable the Food and Drug Administration to impose potentially strict new controls on the making and marketing of products that eventually kill half their regular users. The House, which passed a similar bill in April, may vote on the Senate version as soon as Friday."
"The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as it is called, stops short of empowering the F.D.A. to outlaw smoking or ban nicotine - strictures that even most antismoking advocates acknowledged were not politically feasible and might drive people addicted to nicotine into a criminal black market. But the law would give the F.D.A. power to set standards that could reduce nicotine content and regulate chemicals in cigarette smoke. The law also bans most tobacco flavorings, which are considered a lure to first-time smokers... The law would also tighten restrictions on the marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Colorful ads and store displays will be replaced by black-and-white-only text. Beginning next year, all outdoor advertising of tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds would be illegal. And cigarette makers will be required to stop using terms like 'light' and 'low tar' by next year and to place large, graphic health warnings on their packages by 2012."
The New York Times reports that "the law would be the first big federal step against smoking since the 1971 ban against tobacco advertising on television and radio and the 1988 rules against smoking on airline flights - but potentially much more sweeping than either of those moves." The paper also notes: "Although the nation's smoking rate has gradually declined in recent years, an estimated one in five people in this country still smoke. And more than 400,000 of them die each year from smoking-related disease" (Wilson, 6/11).
The Washington Post reports that the bill's sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who missed Thursday's vote because of his illness, said in a written statement: "Miracles still happen...The United States Senate has finally said 'no' to Big Tobacco." The Post also notes: "Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), whose state is home to the R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard tobacco companies, tried to kill the measure, arguing that the FDA cannot handle additional duties. But in the end, he could not gather enough support for a filibuster. His colleague from North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan, was the only Democrat to vote against the bill."
The Post also notes: "The legislation creates a new tobacco center within the FDA that will be funded by fees from the industry. Those fees are estimated to reach more than $500 million annually by 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office" (Layton, 6/12).
The Wall Street Journal reports that "one key question is whether the bill's advertising restrictions will undo industry efforts to compensate for declining cigarette sales by moving aggressively into smokeless products. Several companies have begun developing snus -- spit-free smokeless tobacco in pouches -- and dissolvable tobacco pellets... While controversial, some research shows that smokeless tobacco products may be less harmful because they generally contain fewer carcinogens than cigarettes and don't enter the lungs" (Mundy and Etter, 6/12).
CBS News: "You might expect tobacco companies to oppose the legislation, and you wouldn't be wrong... But the largest tobacco manufacturer in the country, Philip Morris USA a division of Altria Inc. and the home of the popular Marlboro brand largely supports the bill. The company's spokesperson, Bill Phelps, told NPR News it 'will create a framework for the pursuit of tobacco products that are less harmful than conventional cigarettes.' Lorillard, Reynolds American Inc. and other tobacco companies have an explanation for why Philip Morris is supporting a bill that would mean stronger regulations on its products: They say the legislation will pave the way for the company to cement its dominant position in the market, because the regulations will make it harder for companies to market smaller brands or introduce new products" (Montopoli, 6/11).