Last week, a Senate committee began fast tracking its version of a bill to regulate tobacco.
The bill’s sponsors, California Democrat Henry Waxman and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy say they’ve got a filibuster-proof majority that supports it, and the Big O, who has been known to take a drag or 2, said he intends to sign it.
The legislation would permit the FDA to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco, a product used by 20% of Americans, killing a third of them.
“If this happens, and if the FDA uses its powers, it will be an enormous public health achievement,” said Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The regulation will force the $89 billion tobacco industry to disclose the ingredients in its cancer-producers, and would allow the FDA to ban the most deadly chemicals contained in or produced by smoking cigarettes.
The bill will enable the FDA to cut nicotine levels in the smokes, perhaps to a point where the nasty leaf isn’t addictive, and require tobacco producers to increase warning label size from 30% to 50% of the carton package.
Tobacco producers would also be prohibited from using terms like “light,” “mild,” and “low” unless they could prove the product was less harmful than the regular stuff.
Remarkably, Altria supports the bill. It believes FDA approval will help it sell new products that are less deadly. The tobacco giant recently acquired US Smokeless Tobacco and is introducing a new line of, get this, spit-free smokeless tobacco products.
North Carolina Republican Richard Burr has vowed to fight the bill on behalf of his state’s stakeholders, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard. His alternative promotes reduced-risk tobacco products, which sounds like an oxymoron to us.
In Q1, 2009 alone, Altria spent $4.29 million to state its case regarding the bill, according to federal lobbying records. RJ Reynolds chipped in $1.59 million in the same period, and Lorillard paid $850,000.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids scraped together $157,000 and some coupons for free meals at KFC to lobby for its position.