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House passes bill to give FDA tobacco regulating authority

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill [H.R. 1256 text, PDF] Thursday that would give the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [agency website] the authority to regulate the market for tobacco products. The bill, entitled the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in the House by a vote of 298-112 [roll call vote]. The Act would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [text], the law that created the FDA, to provide the agency with the authority to regulate tobacco products including "any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, including any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product." The bill does not permit the FDA to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers, or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses, or tobacco grower cooperatives. Additionally, the bill calls for the establishment of a Center for Tobacco Products and an Office to Assist Small Tobacco Product Manufacturers within the FDA to assist the agency in its regulation of the tobacco market.

Last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] voted 38-12 to approve the bill [JURIST report]. At the time, supporters said the bill would help to inform the public of the risks of smoking and make cigarettes safer, but opponents criticized the legislation, saying it could give the public a false sense of security about smoking and that the FDA might not be able to handle the burden of regulation. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a similar bill [JURIST report] in August 2007. Shortly before that, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan said that the FDA lacked the resources [JURIST report] to handle tobacco regulation. The FDA first began to regulate the tobacco industry in 1996, but in 2000 the Supreme Court ruled in FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. [text] that Congress had not provided the FDA with the authority to regulate tobacco products.

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