Congress votes for FDA tobacco regulation

The U.S. House of Representatives today voted by a majority of more than two-thirds (326 v 102) to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products. For this piece of legislation to become law, the Senate would also have to vote positively for it, and then the President would have to sign his approval (rather than veto it).

There is currently not much time left on the Senate’s legislative agenda, and the President’s office has already issued statements saying it does not like the bill (without saying outright that it will be vetoed).

Not everyone who has read this bill takes the view that it will help reduce the harms from tobacco, and many are concerned by the fact that Philip Morris tobacco company claims to support it. Some feel that if the Democrats win the Presidential election there may be an opportunity to pass a bill that could more strongly regulate tobacco. It is noteworthy that both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are current sponsors of the bill.

The bill itself is long and complex. There are parts of it I don’t particularly like. But my impression is that if the powers it gives to the FDA to regulate tobacco are fully implemented, it will be a massive step forward in the attempt to reduce the enormous harm to health that is currently caused by cigarettes in the United States. Just as an example, it appears to give FDA the power to require manufacturers to eliminate any toxic chemical from cigarettes, (other than nicotine, that can be reduced but not eliminated).

Given the massive impact of tobacco on health in this country, the magnitude of the support for the bill in the House of Representatives today, and the very widespread support for the bill among organizations concerned with public health, it is critical that the Senate makes the time to vote on this bill this year, and that the President allows the will of the people, their elected representatives and the future elected President of this country to be decisive on this issue.

You can find out more detail on the bill, its support and what it will do, at:
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.