As it stands now cigarettes and tobacco products are exempt from federal regulation that applies to ingredients in medications, consumer products and even dog food.
Now a bill in Congress would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to oversee and regulate cigarettes.
The bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee 38 to 12.
Under it, the FDA would have the power to review new tobacco products prior to sale. The FDA would not be able to require zero nicotine levels or outlaw cigarettes.
The agency would regulate advertising, especially claims of a safer cigarette, and it would have the power to oversee the amount of tar, nicotine and other ingredients in cigarettes.
An additional fee on tobacco makers and importers would pay for the oversight, predicted to be $85 million in the first year.
"There are few actions Congress can take that would make a bigger difference for our nation's health," said Bill Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit antitobacco lobby.
The American Cancer Society supports the measure as well.
President of the Cancer Action Network, Daniel Smith says in a statement, “This bill will put a stop to decades of Big Tobacco marketing, aimed at addicting each new generation of young people to their deadly products. Ninety percent of smokers begin before the age of 18, not because they are taking their health into consideration, but because they’re persuaded by slick advertising and promotions that convince them smoking is glamorous and cool. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We urge the House to move the tobacco legislation quickly to the full House floor and look forward to continued success for this critical public safety policy.”
This is not the first time an FDA oversight of the tobacco industry has been suggested. In 1996 the FDA initiated oversight but in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the idea.
President Bush opposes the plan and even though it has 220 backers in the House and 55 in co-sponsors in the Senate, he could veto the measure. FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach says his regulatory body is already overworked and under-funded.
The full house will vote on the bill this spring. All three presidential candidates are co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill. It has the approval of major health groups and even cigarette giant, Philip Morris, USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc. #