Durbin, Kennedy and DeWine introduce legislation on tobacco

Durbin, Kennedy and DeWine introduce legislation on tobacco


WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) have just unveiled legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products.

“Believe it or not, the FDA regulates the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese produced by Phillip Morris, but it has no authority to protect consumers when it comes to the Marlboros produced by the very same company,” Durbin said. “Cigarettes contain ammonia, formaldehyde, arsenic and carbon monoxide. Yet while the FDA must approve anything that goes into macaroni and cheese, the poisons that are rampant in Marlboros are free from regulation.”

Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 different chemicals, at least 50 of which are known to cause cancer. Although tobacco use kills some 400,000 Americans each year—more than AIDS, alcohol, automobile accidents, murders and suicides combined—these products and the companies that manufacture them are currently exempt from government oversight. In March 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that current law does not allow regulation of tobacco products by the FDA.

The Youth Smoking Prevention and Public Health Protection Act would grant the FDA authority to restrict advertising and promotion of tobacco products to children and to restrict advertising that misleads consumers. The measure also would codify the tobacco regulations developed by the FDA in 1996 but later struck down by the Supreme Court decision. In addition, it would require tobacco companies to submit information on all ingredients, substances and compounds they add to their tobacco, paper or filters. These companies also would be required to make public all research related to the health, behavioral or physiologic effects of their products.

The bill introduced recently also would revise the health warning on tobacco packaging and grant the FDA the authority to require changes, further revise or add such warnings. It would, in addition, give the FDA the authority to require changes in tobacco products themselves, including mandating the reduction or elimination of harmful additives or decreasing nicotine yield.

“Cigarettes are one of the most dangerous products available to Americans, but there are no effective safeguards to keep cigarette companies from mass-marketing and distributing these products to minors and to others who risk their health every time they light up,” Durbin said. “No other company in America is allowed to market a deadly product without any oversight whatsoever. This bill is a reasonable measure and one that may save thousands of lives.”

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