US Lawmakers to Press for Bill to Regulate Tobacco
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Renewing their offensive against the tobacco industry, anti-smoking lawmakers planned to introduce legislation on Thursday that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and curb marketin
The push in the House of Representatives by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Republican Rep. Greg Ganske of Iowa follows the release of two reports detailing the tobacco industry's lobbying efforts and advertising. A similar measure has already been introduced in the Senate.
Still, big tobacco's critics on Capitol Hill conceded it was far from certain Congress would act this year. 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 in the House and Senate said they were undeterred.
Smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans a year and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Under the legislation, nicotine would be classified as a drug and tobacco products as drug delivery devices.
The legislation would also give the FDA the authority to regulate cigarette and smokeless tobacco labeling and advertisements.
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.
On Wednesday, anti-smoking groups issued a report charging that millions of dollars in political contributions by cigarette makers were thwarting efforts to regulate tobacco.
A separate report by the Federal Trade Commission found that cigarette makers boosted promotional spending 22.3 percent in 1999 despite advertising restrictions imposed under a settlement with US states.