FDA regulation of tobacco approved

April 2, 2009 1:25:41 PM PDT
Anti-smoking forces won a long-awaited victory Thursday as the House passed legislation that would give the federal government key controls over the tobacco industry for the first time.

The measure, passed 298-112, gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate - but not ban - cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The Senate could take up its version of the bill later this month, and supporters are confident they can overcome opposition from tobacco-state senators. The White House supports the legislation, a shift from the Bush administration which threatened to veto a House-passed measure last year.

President Barack Obama has spoken publicly about his own struggles to kick a smoking habit.

"This is truly a historic day in the fight against tobacco, and I am proud that we have taken such decisive action," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the bill's sponsor. "Today we have moved to place the regulation of tobacco under FDA in order to protect the public health, and now we all can breathe a little easier."

Waxman and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., have promoted legislation giving the FDA regulatory powers over tobacco products since the Supreme Court in 2000 ruled that the agency did not have that authority.

That ruling came after years of lawsuits and debate on the issue, including Waxman's memorable 1994 hearing where the heads of big tobacco companies testified that nicotine was not addictive.

Waxman's Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act wouldn't leingful regulation and able to make untested claims about the health effects of their products.

Buyer pointed out that Waxman's bill is supported by the nation's largest tobacco company, Marlboro maker Philip Morris USA. Officials at rival tobacco companies contend the Waxman bill could cement Philip Morris' market advantage.

Lorillard Tobacco Co. said in a statement that among other problems, Waxman's bill "leads to an industry monopoly by locking in the huge market share of our largest competitor while eliminating our ability to communicate with our adult smokers."

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The bill is H.R. 1256.

On the Net:
Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov


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