The Ultimate in Regional Protectionism « The Washington Independent
The Senate this morning is poised to vote on a historic bill empowering the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry for the first time. The proposal, approved by the House in April, is expected to pass, but not without opposition from Southern lawmakers hoping to protect their famously regional industry. And this being Congress, the regional protectionism is bipartisan.
Roll Call (subsription only) points out that the measure has forced an odd political alliance between freshman Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.) and a long-time foe.
Not only is she likely to be the only Democrat to oppose the bill, she will also be fighting side by side with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who campaigned hard to prevent her election last fall.
“I will not stand idly by while the [Food and Drug Administration] is put in charge of such a critical industry to North Carolina,” said Hagan, who believes the bill amounts to a de facto ban on tobacco products.
To be clear, the bill is not a ban on tobacco products. Instead, it would authorize the FDA to restrict marketing tactics and force tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products. It would also empower the agency to place limits on ingredients found to be harmful, including nicotine.
No doubt that would threaten some jobs in tobacco country. The question is, are they worth protecting an industry estimated to kill 400,000 Americans each year?