Smoked out: Land­mark to­bacco bill sails through Se­nate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

The Se­nate over­whelm­ingly passed leg­is­la­tion June 11 that for the first time would bring down the full force of the gov­ern­ment’s reg­u­la­tory ham­mer on the to­bacco in­dus­try.

The mea­sure, which an­ti­smok­ing ad­vo­cates have pur­sued for decades, would give the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion au­thor­ity to reg­u­late to­bacco prod­ucts, in­clud­ing the power to dic­tate in­gre­di­ents and nico­tine lev­els in cigarettes.

The bill passed 79-17, with Demo­cratic Sen. Kay Ha­gan of North Carolina join­ing 16 Repub­li­cans in op­pos­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House, which passed its own bill in April, would likely adopt the Se­nate ver­sion and move it quickly to Pres­i­dent Obama for sign­ing.

“I be­lieve it will be pos­si­ble for us to ac­cept their bill and send it right on to the pres­i­dent,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said.

The bill would im­me­di­ately im­pose sweep­ing re­stric­tions on the mar­ket­ing and sale of cigarettes to chil­dren, such as limit- ing where cig­a­rette com­pa­nies can ad­ver­tise and ban­ning all to­bacco-brand spon­sor­ship of sports and en­ter­tain­ment events.

“The United States Se­nate has fi­nally said ‘no’ to Big To­bacco,” said Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, who spon­sored the bill but missed the vote be­cause he is bat­tling brain can­cer.

“Decades of ir­re­spon­si­ble de­lay are fi­nally over,” the Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat said in a state­ment re­leased af­ter the vote.

Mrs. Ha­gan and North Carolina’s other se­na­tor, Repub­li­can Richard M. Burr, led ef­forts to de­feat the bill. Their state is the coun­try’s top to­bacco pro­ducer, home to 12,000 to­bacco farms and 65,000 to­bacco-in­dus­try jobs.

They ar­gued that the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion was ill-equipped to over­see the to­bacco in­dus­try and that the agency would un­der­mine ef­forts to de­velop safer to­bacco prod­ucts by reg­u­lat­ing in­gre­di­ents in cigarettes.

The Se­nate pas­sage of the bill, ti­tled the “Fam­ily Smok­ing Preven­tion and To­bacco Con­trol Act,” made the new reg­u­la­tions all but cer­tain.

Med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and anti-smok­ing groups, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety, ap­plauded the Se­nate vote.

“This long over­due leg­is­la­tion will pro­tect kids and re­duce the ter­ri­ble hu­man and fi­nan­cial bur­den caused by to­bacco use in this coun­try,” said Paul G. Billings, vice pres­i­dent for pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy at the Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion.

The bill would re­quire stronger warn­ing la­bels and pro­hibit mar­ket­ing cigarettes with terms such as “light” or “mild” that crit­ics say mis­lead peo­ple into think­ing the prod­uct is safer.

Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices sec­re­tary would be given au­thor­ity to im­pose re­stric­tions on the ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion of a to­bacco prod­uct.

The Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion cur­rently has pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for reg­u­lat­ing to­bacco prod­ucts, which are largely ex­empt from the scru­tiny that has been stan­dard for food, drugs and other con­sumer prod­ucts.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts to ex­pand gov­ern­ment con­trol of the to­bacco in­dus­try failed in the face of stiff re­sis­tance from the to­bacco lobby and the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. But this time, the bill got un­ex­pected sup­port from Vir­ginia-based Philip Mor­ris USA, the coun­try’s No. 1 to­bacco com­pany.

The next two largest to­bacco com­pa­nies, North Carolin­abased R.J. Reynolds To­bacco Co. and Lo­ril­lard To­bacco Co., ar­gued that chang­ing reg­u­la­tions now would pre­serve Philip Mor­ris’ share of the mar­ket and give it an un­fair busi­ness ad­van­tage.

About 21 per­cent of U.S. adults smoke, ac­cord­ing to a Gallup Poll last year.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Habit un­der fire: A cus­tomer at the Red Key Tav­ern in Indianapolis lights a cig­a­rette on June 11.

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