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Congress Denies FDA Power to Regulate Tobacco Products

Congress Denies FDA Power to Regulate Tobacco Products

WASHINGTON-Hope that the FDA would finally gain authority to regulate tobacco products more aggressively was dashed when a House- Senate conference committee dropped the provision, which the Senate had passed as part of the 2004 Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax cut bill. The legislation, which President Bush signed into law on Oct. 24, did contain a $10 billion buy-out package for tobacco farmers, that will end a federal tobacco crop quota system instituted during the Depression. The Senate passed the tobacco-regulation provision in July by a 78 to 15 vote, the first time either house had voted FDA regulatory power over the tobacco industry. The Senate's action sent the expectations of public health and anti-tobacco organizations soaring. A joint statement by four groups called the Senate vote "a giant step toward a national tobacco policy that can significantly reduce the number of children who become addicted to tobacco products and the number of people who die each year from tobacco- caused disease." However, the House version of the FSC bill did not include the tobacco regulation powers, and in the conference committee to resolve differences between the two measures, House negotiators led by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif) refused to accept the Senate provision in the bill. The tobacco industry lobbied strenuously to defeat the attempt to regulate its products. Coincidentally, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released its quarterly report on the industry's contributions to federal candidates 9 days after the conference committee reported the final version of the FSC bill. It showed total donations during the 2003-2004 election cycles of $2.8 million.

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