You Mean Nicotine’s a Drug?
It may come a surprise to some that the government has tougher safety standards for Cocoa Puffs than for Marlboros, but under current law, the Food and Drug Administration has no power to regulate the cigarette industry.
House lawmakers took a step today to change that, passing legislation placing tobacco products under the regulatory eye of the FDA. But as evidence of just how slowly Washington works (and how powerful industries can be), the fate of the bill is uncertain in the Senate, where some regional protectionists have vowed to kill it.
The New York Times describes the bill:
As passed by the House the legislation would set up a new F.D.A. office, financed by industry fees, with powers to restrict harmful chemicals in existing tobacco products — including nicotine and possibly, after further study, menthol. The F.D.A. would also be empowered to approve or reject new tobacco products and to expand marketing restrictions and warning labels.
Among the changes, the bill would prohibit tobacco ads within 1,000 feet of schools and require companies to disclose the ingredients of their products. The FDA would not have the power to eliminate tobacco products outright.
A decade ago, the FDA tried to regulate tobacco, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that Congress must specifically empower the agency to monitor the industry. Bill sponsor Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who now heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been trying to do just that for years.
He’s almost there. President Obama supports the bill. The only potential deal-killer could come in the Senate, where North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr has vowed a filibuster, The Times reports.
Is it 2009 or 1709? How the Senate votes will give us the answer.