U.S. Senate plans to expediate legislation for FDA to regulate the tobacco. industry.

April 28, 2009 - - The Senate plans to expedite legislation that would give the federal government the power to regulate tobacco products, reported The Courier-Journal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has told supporters of the legislation, which passed the House on April 2 on a 298 to 112 vote, that the matter will be taken up before the end of May. Jim Manley, spokesperson for Reid, confirmed that Senate action is slated for next month. Manley said no final decision has been made on the legislative procedures in the Senate for considering the tobacco bill.

The only question is whether the House-passed bill, sponsored by Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), will be taken up by the Senate or whether a separate and basically identical Senate measure will be voted on instead, said the report. Reid has invoked a Senate rule that allows the Waxman bill to be considered on the Senate floor without first being approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, whose chairman is Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) but that the senator still intends to introduce his own measure, as he did last year.

As a sign of intensifying lobbying for the measure, supporters have begun running ads in Washington-based publications to urge senators to act, said the report.

If passed, the legislation would empower the FDA to restrict tobacco advertising and marketing—particularly any that it determines to be targeting children. The FDA also would have the authority to require larger and more graphic warnings on cigarette packs and demand disclosure of tobacco product ingredients. The agency would not regulate tobacco farmers and would not be allowed to ban tobacco. The cost of the regulation would be covered by fees imposed on the tobacco manufacturers and importers, the report said.

Just like in the House, an alternative bill has also been introduced in the Senate. The alternative bill, authored by Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), would create a new government agency to regulate the tobacco industry rather than grant the authority to the FDA.

Reference: Senate Eager for FDA Bill
Accelerating tobacco regulation legislation; could vote on House version by end of May
, CSP Daily News, 4/28/2009.