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WASHINGTON -- While it would still face White House opposition and a potential filibuster in the Senate, a bill that would place the tobacco industry under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration could break out of a legislative stalemate in the House this week, reported The Wall Street Journal.
According to proponents, the bill may receive as many as 320 votes in the House. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told the paper the White House opposes the legislation because tobacco regulation would "overburden the FDA and jeopardize international trade agreements by banning some imported cigarettes."
The legislation is currently backed by a coalition of antismoking activists and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including the nation's biggest cigarette maker by sales, Philip Morris USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc., the report stated.
At 28 percent of cigarette sales, menthol equates to $70 billion of the total U.S. tobacco market. The leading brand, Newport, is made by Lorillard Inc., according to the report.
"It makes the development and marketing of safer tobacco products impossible, while providing no guidance to the FDA as to how to carry out this new regulation," Lorillard said in a statement cited by The Wall Street Journal.
The bill may face a veto from President George W. Bush, and has 57 co-sponsors in the Senate, three fewer than the number needed to proceed to a vote or override a veto, the report stated.
In related news, San Francisco's city board of supervisors was expected to vote yesterday on whether to ban cigarette sales at pharmacies as of Oct. 1. This development follows a national trend with other cities looking to decrease tobacco sales, distribution and consumption.
While no major legislation has passed to date, aside from pharmacies, retailers such as CVS/Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co., supermarket chains and big-box retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are closely watching developments.