Senate Starts Floor Debate on FDA Tobacco Bill

The U.S. Senate has voted 84-11 in favor of beginning debate on a bill that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products, Reuters reported June 2.

Floor debate began Tuesday on the measure, and formal discussion on the measure is expected to stretch into next week. The measure, drafted by Democrats, appears to have enough voted for passage, albeit by a slim majority. The House has already approved the bill, and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it.

Differences between the House and any Senate-passed measure would have to be worked out before the bill reaches Obama's desk.

Supporters say that the measure will save prevent children from becoming smokers and cut healthcare costs. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the measure would add $900 million to the federal budget deficit (despite the fact that FDA regulation would be funded by fees on the tobacco industry), and some opponents in Congress say that there is enough regulation already.

“There's enough information out there that can tell you that this will kill you,” said Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, at the start of floor debate on the FDA bill.

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