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    Philip Morris "supportive" of a bill that would gave the agency power to regulate tobcco.

    WASHINGTON -- The world's leading cigarette manufacturer said it was in "general agreement" yesterday with a Senate bill that would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad powers to regulate tobacco, although it will still push for some changes in the legislation.

    "We are very strongly supportive of the approach" of the Senate legislation sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy and Ohio Republican Mike DeWine, Philip Morris Senior Vice President Steve Parrish told reporters.

    Most observers doubt the Senate will act on the bill this year but believe the issue could gain some momentum when Congress reconvenes early next year, according to Reuters. Philip Morris U.S.A. Chairman Mike Szymanczyk is to submit written testimony outlining the changes the maker of Marlboro and other leading brands would like to see in the Senate Health committee, chaired by Kennedy, at a hearing on Thursday.

    Philip Morris, the leading U.S. tobacco company, has broken with the rest of the industry with its stated acceptance of an FDA role. But public health experts have been skeptical of just how far even Philip Morris will go, noting that the company's counterproposals often contain loopholes that would water down the FDA's impact.

    "Philip Morris continues to try to portray major differences in policy and standards as minor gaps. Philip Morris continues to endorse provisions that would make it virtually impossible for FDA to act," said Matt Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

    Without making public details of Szymanczyk's statement, Parrish outlined some changes the cigarette maker would like to see, including provisions that would limit FDA power to bring about changes in cigarettes if they could lead to "unintended consequences," such as a black market, the report said. Parrish also said the company wants changes that could encourage, rather than possibly inhibit, the development of lower risk products. "If reduced harm can be developed and validated, we should be able to communicate it," he said.

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