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    Tobacco Regulation Bill Passes House Committee

    Legislation that authorizes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the sale and marketing of tobacco products has passed a congressional panel and is now headed to a hearing by the full House of Representatives, Bloomberg reported March 4.

    The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by a 39-13 vote. The legislation is backed by President Obama and also has the approval of Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA.

    The bill calls for new restrictions on tobacco marketing, larger warnings on cigarette packages, and gives the FDA authority to monitor tobacco ingredients and new products.

    “Regulating tobacco is the single most important thing that we can do right now to curb the deadly toll of tobacco, and FDA is the right agency to do the job,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has sponsored the legislation for over 10 years.

    Dissenting House Republicans voiced concern that the FDA would be overburdened with the new responsibilities and distracted from its core mission. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) proposed instead the creation of a “Tobacco Harm Reduction Center” within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Further opposition was voiced by tobacco manufacturers Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc., which expressed concern that FDA regulation would allow Philip Morris to dominate the tobacco market.

    A debate over menthol cigarettes, the most popular flavor of cigarette and the only one not banned under the current legislation, contributed to previous bill failures in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005. Under the current bill, the FDA could seek a ban at a later date if menthol is determined to be a health risk.