WASHINGTONThe President’s tobacco commission is supporting the federal regulation of tobacco products. The Supreme Court ruled last March that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to regulate tobacco products, and federal legislation that would have provided the agency with the ability to regulate tobacco products failed in Congress last year.
In its preliminary report, the panel backed the idea that the FDA "should have authority to establish fair and equitable regulatory controls over the manufacture, sale, distribution, and labeling of tobacco products, comparable to regulations established for other products regulated by the FDA."
The panel added that such regulations should have as their goal "the protection of public health. The US department of Agriculture should retain its authority to set safety standards governing tobacco farms."
In its report, the commission made several general recommendations and outlined the principles that will guide it in its final report, which is scheduled for release in May.
The panel’s broad recommendations call for the federal government "to continue some type of tobacco program that regulates supply, price, and quality; provides fair compensation for tobacco quotas; protects the interests of family farmers; and provides assistance to tobacco farmers and their communities to diversify their crops and local economies to reduce dependence on tobacco income, in the face of negative trends that are both long term and global."
Moreover, the panel urged the federal government "to recognize the inextricable linkage between protecting the family tobacco farmer and the need to promote health by adopting additional steps to prevent children from starting to use tobacco. Such a program needs to educate, encourage, and assist adults who want to quit, and to establish firm and effective regulatory standards over manufactured tobacco products."
President Clinton established the commission in an executive order issued last September. The 10-member panel consists of tobacco growers, public health representatives, and economic development experts. Rod Kuegel, president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, and Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, co-chair the group.