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WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives approved legislation earlier this week that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products, in a 326-102 vote, The New York Times reported.
Despite the history of warnings about the dangers of smoking, Michigan Democrat, Representative John D. Dingell, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told the paper it was hard to believe the federal government had not yet regulated the tobacco industry.
"With this legislation, we change this," said Dingell.
However, this future is not set in stone, as the White House opposes the bill and it remains uncertain if the legislation can pass the Senate with a veto-proof majority, according to the report. The FDA's new role would primarily be financed through new fees paid by tobacco companies that are earmarked for that purpose, the report stated.
Under the bill, the FDA would not have the ability to order the elimination of nicotine from tobacco products, or place an outright ban on all tobacco products, but could reduce nicotine to nonaddictive levels, if it determined doing so would benefit public health, the report stated. In addition, the agency could also require changes to tobacco products, such as the reduction
or elimination of harmful ingredients. It would also require tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients used in products, while all advertising would be limited to black and white print, according to the report.
Further, one measure included in the bill is a ban on flavored cigarettes. However, the legislation exempts menthol from that ban, but would require the FDA to publish an action plan on the advertising of menthol and other cigarettes to young people, the Times reported.
Cigarette manufacturer Lorillard Tobacco Co., maker
of leading menthol brand, Newport cigarettes, said in a statement cited by the paper that it opposed the bill, but "welcomes the provision in this bill that calls for a scientific review of menthol in cigarettes."
It also cited an October 2007 House subcommittee meeting, where in written testimony, FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, stated the FDA could play a role in the regulation of tobacco, but should not be the responsible agency. The company argued that the agency does not have the ability or resources to undertake the regulation of tobacco.
Republicans also opposed the bill, stating the FDA was unable to fulfill its current duties overseeing food and drugs, according to the report.