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House Passes Measure To Regulate Tobacco

On July 30, the House approved, 326-102, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108). The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on April 2 (see The Source, 4/4/08). The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved a similar bill (S. 625) on August 1 (see The Source, 8/3/07).

Sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the measure would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. Specifically, H.R. 1108 would direct the FDA to establish standards for tobacco products, but would prevent the agency from prohibiting any class of tobacco products, such as all cigarettes, or eliminating nicotine. H.R. 1108 would prohibit tobacco manufacturers from using any additive that causes a cigarette or its smoke to have a characterization flavor other than tobacco. The provision, however, would exclude menthol-flavored cigarettes. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would fund the FDA’s new responsibilities by taxing tobacco companies.

Speaking in support of his bill, Rep. Waxman said, “Every one of us knows the tragic consequences of cigarette smoking. We’ve seen loved ones die, suffer. We’ve watched others grow sick. Many of us have felt the grip firsthand of addiction, but the worst of all is what happens to children. One thousand children start smoking each and every day. Four hundred thousand Americans die every year…[C]igarettes, one of the most dangerous products on sale today, is not regulated at all. This bill would give the FDA the only agency with the right combination of scientific expertise, with regulatory experience and with a public health mission the ability to oversee the products effectively. The FDA can stop th[e] marketing [of cigarettes] to kids. They can prevent manufacturers from misrepresenting their products as ‘light’ or as ‘safer.’ They can require changes in cigarettes. They can change the level of nicotine so that people who smoke and who want to give up smoking will have a fighting chance. They can regulate ingredients, such as formaldehyde or benzene or radioactive elements, or any other deadly chemical.” Rep. Waxman continued, “Now, some have argued that the FDA is overburdened, that they can’t do another job. Well, they are overburdened, and they’re not well funded, but this bill has a user fee built into it to raise the money from the tobacco companies to give the FDA the ability to go and regulate this product.”

Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) said, “[D]uring my tenure in Congress, I have consistently opposed granting the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco. As I have stated on many occasions, I believe allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco in any capacity would inevitably lead to the FDA’s regulating the family farm…[S]hould the FDA spend its time regulating tobacco on the farm and in manufacturing facilities, despite warnings on cigarette labels, which alert consumers to their danger, or should it focus on the core mission of ensuring the safety and soundness of our food, drugs, and cosmetics? I also have concerns with the impact this legislation would have upon tobacco manufacturers and their employees. These companies employ many hardworking, diligent working North Carolinians, and I believe the FDA regulation of tobacco would negatively affect these manufacturing jobs. Finally…taxing tobacco companies to fund additional regulation and avoid PAYGO [pay-as-you-go] problems is ill-conceived and will create an incentive, in my opinion, for black market activity, such as counterfeiting and smuggling. Madam Speaker, this legislation is misguided and, in my opinion, will not achieve the goals identified by proponents. Indeed, I believe it will further exacerbate an already stretched FDA, negatively impact manufacturers and farmers, and create a strain on federal revenues to the Treasury. I adamantly oppose the measure and urge my colleagues to do the same…[T]obacco is a product that is lawfully grown, lawfully marketed, lawfully manufactured, and lawfully consumed. We don’t need the FDA inserting its oars into these waters.”

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