Following a July 17 hearing, in which members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee determined that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was ill-equipped to regulate food safety, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) asked lawmakers to keep their findings in mind as Congress examines giving FDA the power to regulate tobacco.
FDA criticism came from both sides of the aisle, with Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) calling FDA a “sorry mess.” Yet this same committee will soon be considering legislation (H.R. 1108) that would put the additional requirement of regulating over 300,000 tobacco retailers in the lap of an agency already struggling to meet its current mission. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has scheduled a markup for identical legislation (S.625) on July 25.
“The federal government in general, and FDA in particular, is the wrong entity to regulate retail sales of tobacco,” said NACS Senior Vice President Lyle Beckwith. “With Congress clearly saying that FDA does not have the ability to effectively regulate food safety, we urge Congress to also consider how this ‘sorry mess’ is capable of regulating the 300,000 retailer outlets in the United States that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. By making FDA regulate tobacco retailing, Congress would stunt the effectiveness and innovation of 50 well-functioning state programs.”
He added that if Congress feels compelled to get involved in regulating tobacco retailing, the most effective way would be to set a federal standard with which the states must comply–similar to the way Congress acted to raise the national smoking age to at least 18 years old.
“Regulation would still remain with the states–where it belongs–but a set of national tobacco retailing standards could be established,” said Beckwith. “The members of Congress who co-sponsored the FDA tobacco legislation should seriously re-think their support in light of the facts made public in the July 17 hearing.”