Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Reintroduces Legislation That Would Give FDA Authority Over Tobacco Products
A bipartisan group of Senate and House members on Thursday introduced a bill that would allow FDA to regulate tobacco products, the Los Angeles Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). In previous years, similar legislation has failed
A bipartisan group of Senate and House members on Thursday introduced a bill that would allow FDA to regulate tobacco products, the Los Angeles Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). In previous years, similar legislation has failed, but supporters of the latest bill "believe it will fare better in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate," the AP/Miami Herald reports. Bill sponsors include Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). The legislation would allow FDA to:
* Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of their products and tobacco smoke (Bridges, AP/Miami Herald, 2/15);
* Issue regulations to prevent youth smoking and reduce the number of individuals addicted to tobacco products;
* Regulate the sale, distribution and promotion of tobacco products;
* Eliminate the use of cigarette vending machines;
* Require larger warning labels on tobacco products;
* Prohibit claims about the health effects of tobacco products that are not scientifically verified;
* Prohibit the use of promotional terms such as "light," "ultralight" and "low tar" on tobacco products; and
* Require tobacco companies to remove toxic ingredients or reduce nicotine levels in their products (Carroll, Louisville Courier-Journal, 2/16).
The bill would not allow FDA to ban tobacco or tobacco products that contain nicotine.
Prospects for Passage
Kennedy and Cornyn said that the Senate version of the bill has 29 bipartisan co-sponsors (Armstrong, CQ Today, 2/15). Co-sponsors reportedly include 2008 presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). Waxman and Davis said that the House version of the legislation has 100 bipartisan co-sponsors. Davis said, "We're going to have very big margins," adding, "We could override" a veto by President Bush. The Bush administration previously has opposed similar bills. Kennedy said that the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the legislation on Feb. 22.
Cornyn said that the bill would not allow FDA to ban tobacco because "we tried that before once with alcohol." He added, "It didn't work, and I don't think it would work here" (CQ Today, 2/15). Waxman said, "This bill is long overdue, and this is the year, I believe, that regulation of tobacco" by FDA will become law. Waxman added, "We've always had bipartisan support, but we didn't have support from the leadership" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). Senate HELP Committee ranking member Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) said that he opposes the bill because FDA regulation of tobacco products without the ability to ban them legitimizes the products. He said, "When the FDA deals with health problems, they have to stop the health problems," adding, "And if they don't have that authority, then it doesn't come under their jurisdiction" (CQ Today, 2/15). HHS spokesperson Christina Pearson said, "We're in the process of reviewing the legislation" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). Officials for Philip Morris USA in a statement said that the company supports the bill because the legislation "would bring predictability and clear standards to the tobacco industry" in the U.S. (CQ Today, 2/15). Joel Spivak, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "We are quite excited about the possibility that we may very well get it done this time around" (AP/Miami Herald, 2/15).
California Supreme Court Decision
In other tobacco news, the California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that lawsuits filed against tobacco companies by individual smokers could proceed in the state, four years after a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision "virtually halted all smoker lawsuits in the state," the Los Angeles Times reports. California in 1998 began to allow individuals smokers to file lawsuits against tobacco companies, but the federal appeals court in 2002 ruled that smokers should have filed such lawsuits years earlier, when the health risks and addictiveness of cigarettes became widely known. The federal appeals court decision allowed tobacco companies to move lawsuits filed against them by individual smokers in California to federal court, where each subsequent case was dismissed. In the decision on Thursday, state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno wrote, "Although knowledge of smoking addiction has been widespread, ... tobacco companies' misrepresentation of the danger and addictiveness of smoking were also widespread." According to the Times, although "smoking cases may still be heard in federal court, judges there will have to base their decisions on the California court's interpretation of state law." Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University, said that the decision "reopens tobacco litigation in California" (Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 2/16).