Washington Anti-smoking congressional leaders filed bipartisan legislation Thursday to give the Food and Drug Administration control over tobacco products, something health advocates have long sought.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would force cigarette makers to disclose contents and let the FDA regulate toxin and nicotine limits. Tobacco products that companies want to advertise as "safer" would have to get FDA approval, and the FDA could restrict marketing, particularly advertising aimed at children.
The bill would also:
¢ Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children;
¢ Ban candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes;
¢ Prohibit the use of terms such as "light," "mild," and "low-tar" and allow only scientifically proven health claims;
¢ Require bigger and more informative warning labels.
"Congress cannot in good conscience allow the federal agency most responsible for protecting the public health to remain powerless to deal with the enormous risks of tobacco, the most deadly of all consumer products," said sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in announcing the bill.
The bill filed by Kennedy and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is almost identical to legislation filed in previous years and already has 29 co-sponsors. The Senate twice passed similar language in 2004 connected to the tobacco buyout, but the FDA controls were stripped out of the final bill. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that current law does not allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will file parallel legislation in the House. With Democrats now in control of both houses, the bill stands a strong chance of passage. Kennedy will chair a hearing on the bill Feb. 27 in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.