US Lawmakers to Launch New Bid to Regulate Tobacco
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leading anti-smoking lawmakers will renew their offensive against the tobacco industry on Tuesday, introducing legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) the authority to regulate tobacco products and cu
But big tobacco's critics on Capitol Hill said it was far from certain the House of Representatives and the Senate would act this year. Congressional Republican leaders have in the past been reluctant to take up tobacco legislation and some have been openly critical of the FDA.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the FDA had overstepped its authority in 1996 when it issued unprecedented, sweeping curbs on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
In response anti-smoking activists and their congressional allies proposed legislation that would give the FDA the power it needed to enforce the regulations, which sought to restrict the sale of tobacco products to minors and to limit advertising and marketing by tobacco companies.
The legislation stalled in 2000, but supporters were undeterred. Aides said Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news - bio - voting record) of Rhode Island would join Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bob Graham of Florida in reintroducing the legislation on Tuesday.
Smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans a year and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. About 3,000 young people start smoking in the United States each day, and about one-third of them will eventually die prematurely from tobacco-related disease, anti-smoking groups say.
``FDA regulation of tobacco will be the first, best step toward reducing our health care costs and saving thousands of lives,'' Chafee said.
``Failure to reaffirm the FDA's authority over tobacco products would be failing our children, who are the next generation of potential tobacco victims,'' Graham added.
Under the legislation, nicotine would be classified as a drug and tobacco products as drug delivery devices.
The legislation would allow the FDA to implement a ``public health'' standard in its review and regulation of tobacco products, and authorize the federal government to ban cigarette vending machines.
In addition the legislation would set limits of tobacco advertising, such as a ban on all outdoor ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
The last big push to get comprehensive federal tobacco legislation enacted collapsed in 1998.
Since then, states have settled their lawsuits against tobacco companies and plan to use at least a portion of the money to combat teen smoking. The tobacco industry is facing lawsuits on numerous other fronts.
Last month a commission appointed by former President Clinton (news - web sites) recommended that federal government regulate the sale and labeling of tobacco products.