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Bipartisan Bills to Give FDA Authority to Regulate Tobacco Products

Bipartisan Bills to Give FDA Authority to Regulate Tobacco Products

WASHINGTON—Several House and Senate members have introduced bipartisan bills that would authorize the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products. The measures are in response to a Supreme Court decision that rejected the FDA’s claim to such authority and held that "Congress has clearly precluded the FDA from asserting jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products."

The decision stemmed from a 1996 effort by the FDA to restrict the sale and marketing of tobacco products to children and to regulate the nicotine content of tobacco products. A federal appeals court upheld the tobacco industry’s challenge to the regulations, and the industry ultimately prevailed before the Supreme Court.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Greg Ganske, MD (R-Iowa), introduced legislation backed by more than 50 other representatives.

"No one can deny that the overwhelming majority of evidence shows smoking is the leading cause of cancer and heart disease—the top two causes of death in the United States," Rep. Ganske said. "Unless Congress acts, the tobacco industry will once again be unregulated and free to manufacture its products without regard to public health and safety."

In the Senate, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), and Bob Graham (D-Fla) introduced a similar measure. Provisions in the Senate bill would:

  • Declare nicotine a drug and tobacco products drug delivery devices.

  • Allow the FDA to use a "public health" standard in its review and regulation of tobacco products.

  • Permit age identification checks by codifying the FDA’s 1996 regulations. n Allow restrictions to limit youth access such as requiring that tobacco products be kept behind store counters and banning cigarette vending machines.

  • Include some advertising limits, such as outdoor advertisements within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

  • Enact other provisions of the original FDA regulations aimed at reducing teen access to tobacco.

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