Last week the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved legislation, H.R. 1108, that would require the FDA to regulate the manufacture and sales of tobacco.
Though Republicans offered several amendments to stall the legislation’s passage through the subcommittee, both sides ultimately agreed to move the legislation for a full committee markup. H.R. 1108 would establish a schedule of fines for retailer violations that takes into account whether a retailer has training programs for employees. It would also specify that a retailer cannot be held liable for a violation if a minor presents a fake government-issued ID.
Two Republican amendments were adopted. First, to allay some concerns that the bill might allow for an expedited regulatory process, Ranking Member Nathan Deal (R-GA) offered an amendment that would require all regulations to go through the standard rule-making process. The second amendment that was accepted was offered by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) which would require the FDA tobacco program to be funded entirely by user fees and would also bar any Treasury money to be shifted from other areas if the user fees are inadequate. The user fees would be paid by tobacco manufacturers and importers to offset the expected loss in revenues from decreased smoking. Other Republican members offered amendments to delay implementation of the bill ranging from two to ten years, but the delay of implementation proposals were rejected by voice vote.
Full Committee mark-up of H.R. 1108 is expected in the next few weeks. While PMAA grassroots opposition to the retailer provisions continues, we urge increased focus on the need for equity in all forms of sale (online sales and sales on Native American reservations). If you have not already contacted your Representative in Congress, please contact them now and tell them to oppose FDA regulation of retail sales of tobacco products and close the Native American and online sales loopholes. You can reach your Representative by calling the switchboard at 202-225-3121.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee marked up the companion bill, S. 625, last August but no further action has been taken on the Senate bill. President Bush has voiced concerns about the legislation in the past. However, last August the White House Cancer Panel recommended that the federal government raise taxes on tobacco products and begin regulating tobacco as a drug. PMAA continues to voice opposition to the tax increase and the FDA regulation of tobacco retailers.