FDA Regulation Closer

House committee OKs Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act

WASHINGTON -- The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act, by a vote of 39 to 13 late yesterday. This legislation will give U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the marketing and sales of tobacco.

The legislation would provide FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. It would empower the FDA to prevent the marketing and sale of tobacco products to minors, to prevent false or misleading product claims, and to require [image-nocss] changes to product content or design to protect public health. The FDA's tobacco program would be funded through user fees on tobacco product manufacturers.

"This is a historic day in the fight against the prevalence of tobacco use, its toll on human lives and the clear and pervasive threat tobacco still poses to public health. Granting FDA regulatory authority over tobacco is long overdue," Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee said in a statement announcing the committee's approval of H.R. 1256. "At its core, the legislation is about protecting our children and our youth. I am hopeful that this year we will finally see this bill enacted into law."

The legislation has received wide support from more than 950 public health and faith organizations including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, as well as many other national, state and local organizations.

The same measure was passed by a three-to-one margin in the full House of Representatives last July before stalling in the Senate amid concerns about FDA resources and the lack of a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes, according to a Bloomberg report.

The House bill, backed by industry leader Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA, would restrict tobacco marketing to young people, add larger warnings to cigarette packages and require the FDA to police ingredients, advertising and the introduction of new products.

Some Republicans said the FDA already is spread too thin to manage its core mission, and overseeing tobacco products would mislead consumers that any use of the products can be safe. As reported yesterday in CSP Daily News, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) proposed an alternative "Tobacco Harm Reduction Center" within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to encourage ways to reduce harm from smoking, including a shift toward smokeless products.

"There are better ways to address this issue and I would hope as the bill moves forward members will reflect on the unintended consequences of the legislation," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the committee and a supporter of Buyer's proposal.

Smaller tobacco manufacturers Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc. oppose the measure approved by the committee, saying restrictions would perpetuate the dominance of PM USA, which now makes half the cigarettes sold in the U.S. Reynolds also fears the FDA will not do enough to encourage development of less-harmful tobacco products, according to spokesperson Maura Payne.

The legislation would not allow the FDA to ban tobacco entirely.

President Barack Obama supported similar legislation in the Senate last year. Previous bills failed in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005 in part because of the debate about menthol, the only flavor of cigarette not banned under the current measure. The FDA could ban it at a later date if it is determined to be a health risk. Almost 75% of black smokers prefer menthol, and critics say the omission is discriminating and a dangerous concession to the industry.

Click hereto view the fill text of H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act.