Senate HELP committee approves bill that would allow FDA to regulate tobacco

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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).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


  1. Jonik Jonik United States says:

    This "smoking" bill would do some health damaging things, such as:
    * Ignoring and permitting any of over 400 pesticide residues to remain in typical cigarettes.
    * Ignoring and permitting dioxin-producing chlorine pesticide residues;
    * Ignoring and permitting dioxin-producing chlorine-bleached cigarette paper;
    * Ignoring and permitting radiation from certain phosphate tobacco fertilizers;
    * Ignoring-permitting added burn accelerating substances and "fluffing" technologies;
    *  Giving the FDA power to lower nicotine levels, as is the case in "lite" cigarettes designed to prompt more and more smoking, and deeper inhaling;
    * Forbidding communication of information that a cigarette may be free of those pesticides, burn accelerants, dioxin-producing chlorine elements, or the fertilizer radiation;
    * And…despite the glaring conflicts-of-interest, failing to ban the above-referenced cigarette interests, or their insurers or investors, from participating in regulatory committees.

      This legislation protects the interests of easily the most harmful parts of the cigarette industry.  Proper legislation would forbid any untested or known-harmful non-tobacco cigarette component, require compensation to Guinea-pigged consumers, finally test PLAIN tobacco for real or potential risks, and perhaps (even radically) provide government subsidies for Organic Tobacco Agriculture if for no other reason than to prevent the crimes, costs, and vast social disruptions of another Prohibition.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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