NC Senators - alternative tobacco regulation bill..

March 23, 2009 - North Carolina's two senators, Republican Sen. Richard Burr and first-year Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, have submitted joint legislation called the Federal Tobacco Act of 2009 (Burr-Hagan Bill) that would protect the state's tobacco interests from stringent oversight and save tobacco company billions.

Burr and Hagan want to create a separate agency that they say would do a better job of monitoring the tobacco industry than the FDA. The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved alternative legislation H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act (the Waxman Bill), by a vote of 39 to 13 earlier in March. This legislation will give U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the marketing and sales of tobacco.

Tobacco directly employs more than 47,000 people in North Carolina, according to a 2006 study by Duke University. The state agriculture agency estimates the crop has a $7 billion annual impact. In 2005, nearly 24,000 people in North Carolina died from smoking related illnesses.

Under the Burr-Hagan bill, a new agency would restrict some advertising and require a list of ingredients on cigarette and smokeless tobacco packaging. It would not restrict the products' content. The new agency envisioned by Burr and Hagan would cost about $100 million a year, far less than the hundreds of millions a year that would eventually go to the FDA to regulate tobacco under the Waxman bill. Both versions impose fees on tobacco companies to pay for the regulation.

Tobacco groups and employees have given $355,000 in campaign contributions to Burr since he first got elected to Congress in 1995, election records shows. That's second only to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, from tobacco-growing Kentucky, who has accepted $390,000 from the industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Burr's top overall contributor, with $194,000 in donations, is R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and its parent company, which is based in the senator's hometown, Winston-Salem. (Burr key tobacco funds recipient by Lisa Zagaroli, Charlotte Observer, 3/22/2009.) Kay Hagan's is from nearby Greensboro, NC - she received $19,450 from tobacco contributors in 2008. She has stopped short of saying she would filibuster FDA regulation.

Reference: Burr, Hagan join on tobacco Their bill fights tougher regulation by Barbara Barrett - Washington Correspondent, The News & Observer, 3/14/2009.

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