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    Tobacco Regulation Bill Gains Support

    Republicans push measure that would give Food and Drug Administration control over cigarettes.

    WASHINGTON -- Republicans on the Senate committee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration are circulating a bill that would give the agency the power to regulate tobacco products.

    "I think we've drafted a pretty good bill, and I think the chances of passage are excellent," the committee chairman, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)

    The legislation would give the FDA authority over the marketing, production and distribution of tobacco products. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), the lead sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was "very tough" and he predicted it would win support from Democrats.

    Last year, DeWine, and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced a similar bill. Kennedy has not said whether he would support the new version. The bill would bar the FDA from banning cigarettes, a prohibition that was not in the Kennedy bill.

    DeWine's proposal also says states cannot enact production or labeling standards that are tougher than those established by the FDA, another prohibition that was not in Kennedy's bill.

    Gregg said the legislation would be introduced in September. Committee hearings would follow.
    The FDA asserted jurisdiction over tobacco and sought to crack down on cigarette sales to minors in 1996. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the agency needed congressional approval.

    Industry leader Philip Morris USA has supported a buyout and legislation giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, but most of the other companies have been cool to the idea. They argue FDA regulation would be too burdensome and say new restrictions on advertising would make it increasingly difficult for smaller companies to tap into Philip Morris' market share.

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