Lawmakers renew push for tobacco regulation

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration could regulate tobacco products under legislation revived by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Thursday. The proposal renews a push for tobacco oversight that was blocked last year in the House.

Under the bill, the FDA could regulate the sale, marketing and advertising of tobacco products, and could require companies to list all ingredients added to cigarettes and other forms of consumer tobacco.

The legislation was brought back in the Senate by last year's sponsors, Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who reintroduced the bill on Thursday. The Senate approved it last year, but it died in the House.

"The detrimental effects of smoking are widely known," said DeWine. "But many consumers, including smokers, are surprised to learn that no federal agency has the authority to require tobacco companies to list the ingredients that are in their products."

The legislation would prevent the FDA from banning cigarettes; the agency also could reduce but not eliminate nicotine. The FDA would not regulate tobacco as a drug, but would create a new product category.

Last year's House sponsors, Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., were expected to introduce a similar bill.

In 2004, supporters tried to tie FDA regulation of tobacco leaf to a tobacco-buyout program within a corporate tax bill. The final tax bill included tobacco buyout provisions, but no FDA regulation, and many believed supporters had lost their best shot at oversight.

Strong resistance to the proposal has come "solely from the House leadership and a very small number of tobacco-state legislators," said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The FDA asserted authority over cigarettes in 1996, but the Supreme Court later ruled that only Congress can give the FDA that power.

Philip Morris USA is the only leading tobacco company in favor of FDA regulation. The company says such oversight will give the public more confidence in the industry and help the company market new tobacco products.

Other companies oppose regulation because they say it would affect their ability to compete for new customers.