Tobacco legislation is picking up speed in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) added the House-approved version of FDA tobacco legislation to the Senate calendar Monday, a sign the Senate may not wait for a tobacco bill emerging from the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, before debating the bill from the House.
The bill passed by the House allows the FDA oversight of tobacco products, including regulating tobacco ingredients, product marketing and the power to place bans on flavored cigarettes. At present the FDA cannot prohibit tobacco products or remove nicotine from cigarettes. The House-passed bill also includes retailer provisions that NACS negotiated, a noted difference from the bill passed by the HELP Committee last Congress.
Consumer advocates and tobacco industry representatives expected Senate Democrats to bypass the bill because the HELP panel approved its version of the bill in the 110th Congress and is working on healthcare legislation.
“Unfortunately, by taking the House bill, the majority is undoing all the good work done to improve this bill by the HELP Committee last Congress,” said Michael Mahaffey, a spokesperson for HELP member Michael Enzi (R-WY).
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) sponsored legislation to create a separate agency to regulate tobacco because the FDA already has too much on its plate. Sen. Burr has threatened to filibuster the House-approved bill.