May 21, 2009

Should The FDA Be Given Control Over Tobacco Ads, Products?

A U.S. Senate panel approved legislation that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to have oversight of the advertising and manufacturing of tobacco products.

The bill is to be voted on next week by the Senate. A similar bill went through the House of Representatives in April. The House and Senate would review any variations before sending it to President Barack Obama, who approves the bill.

The bill would give the FDA power over the multibillion-dollar tobacco business to prohibit advertising to kids, outline warnings and manage nicotine content.

"All of us believe the time has come to act to protect our nation's children ... Every day we delay another 3,000, 4,000 children begin to smoke," stated Senator Christopher Dodd to Reuters.

Supporters insisted the bill would aid smoking cessation - specifically in children - as well as increasing package warnings and stopping the tobacco industry from appealing to them with advertising.

2.7 million U.S. children are smokers, Dodd noted.

The bill would also target the largest cause of avoidable death in the US, Democrats insisted. 400,000 Americans perish annually from cancer, heart disease and other tobacco-connected illnesses.

However, the new power does not allow the FDA to control farmers or tobacco itself, but will let it organize smokeless tobacco. Mutually, Reynolds and Star Scientific Inc have released smokeless products prepared with ground tobacco.

Nevertheless, Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi, the committee's top Republican, thinks the money should be spent straightforwardly on attempts to stop smoking instead of controlling a hazardous product.

"We need to fight the issue head on, not tinker at the margins with cigarette composition," Enzi said.

Those conflicting with the legislation wonder if the FDA could handle controlling a new industry after being fraught with outbreaks resulting from contaminated food.

Response from tobacco companies has varied, with the leading cigarette manufacturer, Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, approving the plan in the midst of resistance from other smaller makers like Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers supported the committee's vote wholeheartedly.


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