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WASHINGTON -- NACS, the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, is asking lawmakers to reconsider the regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a hearing Tuesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that the FDA was ill-equipped to regulate food safety.
During that hearing, there was bi-partisan criticism of the FDA, with Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) calling the agency a "sorry mess."
"The federal government in general, and FDA in particular, is the wrong entity to regulate retail sales of tobacco," NACS senior vice president Lyle Beckwith said in a statement. "With Congress clearly saying that FDA does not have the ability to effectively regulate food safety, we urge Congress to also consider how this 'sorry mess' is capable of regulating the 300,000 retailer outlets in the United States that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. By making FDA regulate tobacco retailing, Congress would stunt the effectiveness and innovation of 50 well-functioning state programs."
Beckwith suggested that the regulation of tobacco retailing would instead be most effective with a federal standard, to which the states must comply.
"Regulation would still remain with the states -- where it belongs -- but a set of national tobacco-retailing standards could be established," Beckwith added. "The members of Congress who co-sponsored the FDA tobacco legislation should seriously rethink their support in light of the facts made public in the July 17 hearing."
Meanwhile, a Senate committee postponed consideration of the FDA regulation bill until Wednesday due to an all-night debate on the war in Iraq, The Associated Press reported.
Despite objections that the bill is a misguided effort to reduce the dangers of smoking, the bill -- along with identical legislation in the House -- would give the FDA the same authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products that it has over drugs, food, medical devices and other consumer products, the AP report stated.
The full Senate was expected to pass the measure, although some lawmakers, including Republican members of the committee, said they view any effort to create a safer cigarette an impossible task, according to the report.