U.S Senate committee approves FDA tobacco regulation..

May 21, 2009 - A bill, "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" (S. 982) giving the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) power to regulate tobacco products won approval from Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) by a 15 to 8 vote. Senator Christopher Dodd, who shepherded the bill through the committee, the Senate could take up the legislation as soon as the first week of June. About 2.7 million U.S. children currently smoke, Dodd said.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), would give the FDA limited authority to monitor smoking products. It would impose strict controls on advertising that restrict ads to black and white and stop the use of terms "mild" and "low tar." A similar bill passed the House last month (April).

The legislation does not allow the FDA to regulate farmers or tobacco itself, but would give it power over a growing number of smokeless tobacco products such as dissolvable tablets, strips and toothpick-like sticks. Both Reynolds and Star Scientific Inc have both recently introduced such smokeless products made with finely ground tobacco. U.S. Senate Health Committee Adopts Merkley-Brown Amendment on Tobacco Candy...

Reaction from tobacco companies has been mixed, with the nation's largest cigarette maker, Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, backing the plan amid opposition from several smaller makers such as Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co. Altria spent nearly $3.6 million in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby for passage of this bill..

Senator Richard Burr would have replaced the bill with his own legislation. Burr's amendment was defeated by a 13 to 9 vote.

Tobacco producers have a large presence in North Carolina, the home state of Burr and Democratic committee member Sen. Kay Hagen, who said Tuesday that 65,000 jobs would be affected by the legislation. Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc., two leading tobacco companies, are based in North Carolina.

Burr's alternative measure would have created a new agency within the Health & Human Services Department (HHS) to regulate tobacco. Many Senate Republicans objected to giving the FDA power to regulate tobacco, saying that the agency is already hard-pressed to perform its drug-safety mission.

References: More FDA Tobacco Traction
Senate panel approves regulation measure; Burr's amendment defeated
, Convenience Store/Petroleum (CSP) Daily News, 5/21/2009; Senate panel backs FDA oversight of cigarettes, Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Reuters, 5/20/2009.