a lit cigarette

Both HELP Leaders Back Tobacco Regulation

Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy and Ranking Member Mike Enzi want stricter controls on tobacco products, they said during Tuesday's markup of a bill that would grant regulatory authority to FDA.

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee marked up S. 982, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, with both of the committee's leaders saying they support stricter government controls on tobacco products. Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said the bill "should have been enacted years ago" and will give FDA the authority "to regulate tobacco products, the most lethal of all consumer products." He also said President Obama is eager to sign the bill into law; the House of Representatives already has approved a nearly identical bill.

"The need to regulate tobacco products can no longer be ignored," Kennedy said. "Used as intended by the companies that manufacture and market them, cigarettes will kill one out of every three smokers. Yet the federal agency most responsible for protecting the public health is currently powerless to deal with the enormous risks of tobacco use. Public health experts overwhelmingly believe that passage of S. 982 is the most important action Congress can take to protect children from this deadly addiction. Without strong congressional action, smoking will continue at its current rate, and more than six million of today's children will ultimately die from tobacco-induced disease."

Ranking Member Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said science, not politics, should guide decisions on regulating or banning addictive tobacco flavorings, particularly menthol. "Tobacco companies use flavors to get kids hooked on cigarettes," Enzi said. "While the bill before us today would ban the use of some flavorings, it doesn’t cover all flavored products or give us nearly enough flexibility or tools to address the underlying problem." He offered an amendment that would require FDA scientists to review the data on tobacco flavorings and regulate flavors based on how they affect children, particularly minority youths. The bill would ban many flavorings, but not menthol.

"My fierce opposition to smoking is a result of smoking killing my dad, and my mom, and my mother-in-law, and secondhand smoking conclusively affecting me," Enzi said. "This is not political. This is personal. The protection of kids should be first and foremost."

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and 86 other national public health organizations support S. 982, Kennedy said.

S. 982 would make FDA the primary federal agency regulating the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301). It would give FDA authority to regulate the levels of tar and nicotine in those products, and also to require tobacco product manufacturers to disclose research that has not been made available previously and research generated in the future about the health and dependency effects or safety of tobacco products.

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