Senate Committee Votes To Give FDA Power To Regulate Tobacco

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted 13-8 to empower the FDA to regulate tobacco products. States and municipalities have spent years shoving cigarettes out of the public domain, but the FDA would be able to control cigarette advertising, mandate bigger, European-style warning labels, and regulate nicotine content. Only Congress has the power to ban cigarettes outright. From the Boston Globe:

Yesterday’s slim majority however, came as Republican-sponsored amendments loom that could gut the bill’s main intent.

Such opponents as Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, a tobacco-producing state, offered dozens of amendments at the committee level and promised more from the Senate floor to chip away at the bill’s scope. Kennedy rejected most of the amendments, saying they would undermine the legislation.

Burr has said that he may offer his own bill or use procedural tactics to stall Kennedy’s measure on the Senate floor. He also chastised the excise tax increase as a mechanism to fund children’s healthcare and expand FDA staffing sufficiently to regulate tobacco.

“The honey pot right now is tobacco excise taxes. The fact is, they’ll find, if they implement those, that there will be a reduction in tobacco usage,” Burr said in a recent interview. He said the move would imperil state budgets that rely on tobacco taxes to ease shortfalls.

Senator Michael B. Enzi, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, denounced the bill as “fundamentally flawed” and said it merely locks in place Philip Morris’s dominant market share.

“If this bill is good for Big Tobacco, how can it be good for public health?” said Enzi, whose mother and father died smoking-related deaths. “The fact is it can’t. This bill is nothing more than a Marlboro Protection Act.”

53 Senators, including 12 Republicans, are cosponsoring the bill. 60 votes are needed to secure a final vote on the Senate floor.

FDA might get regulatory power over tobacco [Boston Globe]
S. 625 – Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [THOMAS]
Write Your Senator
Write Your Representative
(Photo: josh.ev9)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dbeahn says:

    My body, my choice. Booze kills WAY more people and causes WAY more problems than tobacco, so until we start talking about putting warning lables like this on every beer or ban booze totally (cause, ya know, that worked so well the first time. And with weed, too – that’s a ban that’s working well. Not.) the let people choose what vices they want.

  2. dbeahn says:

    Hey, do we want to see if Meghann wants to comment on the privacy issues on this one? *rolls eyes*

  3. Steel_Pelican says:

    @dbeahn: Alcohol related deaths in 2001 in the US: 59,180 (wikipedia)
    Average annual deaths attributable to smoking, 1995-1999: 442,398. That’s not per year, that’s average. []


    And nobody’s talking about banning anything, we’re all still free to poison ourselves with tobacco. It’s just getting the FDA involved, like they are with just about every other thing you put into your body.

  4. Cowboys_fan says:

    It totally bugs me when they pull crap like this. Either ban cigarettes altogether, or leave them alone. There’s no 1/2 way on this one IMO.

  5. ancientsociety says:

    More gov’t regulation I say – MORE! MORE! It’s readily apparent that none of us can make informed decisions about what we do with our bodies, our health, or practically anything else in this country anymore and I, for one, welcome our new gov’t Nanny Overlords!

    Now when do we all get our gov’t-sanctioned milk & cookie and afternoon nap?

  6. Steel_Pelican says:

    @Cowboys_fan: This is exactly what we need instead of a ban. A free adult should be able to put whatever he/she wants in his/her body. The government should do everything it can to ensure that those free adults are informed of what they’re putting into their bodies, and that the manufacturers are responsible with what they put in their products.

    If adults are fully informed of what they put in their bodies, and do it anyway, what ammo do the anti-smoking activists have against them? If manufacturers are complying with gov’t regulations in manufacturing, what ammo does the anti-smoking crowd have against them?

    This is enhancing our freedom of choice, by placing more responsibility on us, the consumer. Who can we blame for our lung cancer when we’re explicitly warned about it every step of the way? Nobody but us, and that’s where liberty comes from, accountability.

  7. Kaien says:

    Oh, the smoking thing…
    I love some of the debates on both sides.
    Prohibition won’t work for smoking though, that’s why they do the half thing. They don’t want to repeat what happened when they prohibited alcohol.

    I sometimes had interesting talks with another when they say we should encourage smoking to weed out the week and make more money and most importantly, kill more of the population “naturally” to lower the usage of cars and consumption of other resources.
    As terrible as it sounds, I doubt it’d happen regardless.

    This is some ok news in my opinion, if your family dies to some smoking, it is better you tell them to stop than let them die and then point the finger at big tobacco. As for taxes, it doesn’t really kill the want for daily smokers, they’ll still pay up but may hate the idea a bit.

    For the record, I don’t smoke, but many of my family does and I gave up trying to reason with those smokers, and most have died to cancer, caused by smoking or not.

    I’ll just remember what one of my high school teachers said who smoked all his life… “it is stupid to smoke, but I can’t think of a better way to induce your death so you don’t grow old and usless and have to rely on people to wipe your ass if you live much longer than expected.”

    Anyway, the only ammo this gives is for the global warming activists, but that’s another event for another day.

  8. slowinthefastlane says:

    Screw the European-style labels. They should jump straight to the Canadian ones. They’re just as big and feature full color photos of cancer-infected lungs and other body parts!

  9. CreativeLinks says:

    Why not just make them illegal?

    Oh, right. Millions of dollars in revenue to state and federal government.

  10. Cowboys_fan says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I have lived where this kinda’ thing exists and gross looking warnings do nothing to prevent smoking. We all know by now the dangers of smoking. Our parents, schools, and government remind us almost daily. I take offence in the advertising. You can selll it, but not advertise? I am not opposed to regulating the nicotine content however, but they should also be regulating the other chemicals, you know, the ones that will actually kill you, nicotine won’t.

  11. Cowboys_fan says:

    Also the anti-smoking people will always be able to argue the second hand issue, they will never go away.

  12. vanilla-fro says:

    Yeah its the labels that are wrong.

    Please who in the US honestly doesn’t know what smoking does to you. I don’t think there should be in liability on the part of the tabacco companies for smoking related deaths.
    The government regulating them may cause an increase in price but other than that, no real change.

    Also….can people stop using wikipedia as a reference? please

  13. badlydrawnjeff says:

    Not that these big ads are actually helping inform people anymore. Nearly everyone knows that the consensus is that smoking is harmful, we get it. This is just another attempt to impose moral values on others.

  14. Steel_Pelican says:

    @Cowboys_fan: Agreed, warning labels don’t appear to be stopping anyone, and that’s fine. I frankly don’t care what the greater population does with their health. The value of the warning labels is this: When you do get lung cancer, you can’t go whining to the manufacturers and the government- you were warned, and you did it anyway. Accountability FTW.

    The advertising is another, trickier issue, and I don’t want to comment too much on it here, because I don’t know exactly what regulations on the advertising would be imposed under the FDA. I think it’s fair to regulate tobacco advertising (within reason), since we have laws about who can’t use it, and advertising specifically to those who can’t legally purchase it would seem a little unethical to me.

  15. Steel_Pelican says:

    @vanilla-fro: This is exactly why we need the labels. So we can say “you knew what you were getting yourself into, we’re not going to help you” when someone tries to sue the tobacco companies for their ruined lungs, or if someone tries to get gov’t assistance (my tax $) to help them live without their trachea.

    @badlydrawnjeff: Nobody’s imposing moral values, just helping consumers make a more informed choice. A ban would be an imposition of moral values. Labels that say “smoking makes you a bad person” would be an imposition of moral values. The more we warn people about the dangers, the less footing they have when the “smoking hurt me, now give me money!” discussion comes up.

  16. Chicago7 says:

    The REASON cigarettes are taxed so much is to get people to quit and make it more difficult to start, especially for kids, who don’t have disposable income.

    You don’t have to worry about taxes – when everybody quits cigarettes or dies from smoking them, they’ll figure out something else to tax.

  17. Chicago7 says:


    How is that a “moral value”? – if a product had botulism, wouldn’t you want the government to warn you about it?

  18. badlydrawnjeff says:

    @Steel_Pelican: Bull. This is all about moral values, it has nothing to do with informed choice anymore. Practically everyone knows what’s up with smoking – the information is there even if you’ve never touched a cigarette pack. Because the anti-smoking folks know that they can’t outright ban the things, they’re simply doing everything in their power to impose ludicrous laws and labels to try and get their way. Enough is enough.

  19. Chicago7 says:

    I think we need a definition of “moral values”

  20. badlydrawnjeff says:

    @Chicago7: Again, this isn’t about the contents – it stopped being about that ages ago.

  21. Greeper says:

    If I recall from my law school days, the reason this has never happened is because there is something called the Delaney Amendment (in the FDA Act) which says that the FDA is REQUIRED to ban any known carcinogen. By keeping cigs outside the jurisdiction of the FDA, they were not banned. I dont know how they can be under FDA jurisdiction and not be banned under Delaney. My teacher was the former head of the FDA.

  22. Cowboys_fan says:

    I don’t know much about the ad issue either, however where I mention I was in a place w/ the labels, also had an outright ban on ads. No ads, period. I feel that this is likely how it may go eventually.

  23. Chicago7 says:


    It seems like it would be immoral to leave a warning off of the cigarette package. The only people this could possibly cause some inconvenience to is the cigarette manufacturers – the same guys who stood up, under oath, in front of Congress and said they knew of NO studies showing the harm of cigarette smoking.

    So, if you are worried about immorality, you should start with the cigarette manufacturers.

  24. Yourhero88 says:

    This is such a sticky situation since tobacco helped build our nation. It has been providing state revenue since we came into being, and it’s tough to fill that void if we outlaw them outright. That being said, I’m still all for FDA regulation. It sort of makes me sick that the tobacco lobbyists admit outright that they don’t want this because if it goes through, people will smoke less, and therefore less money will be made. The ultimate case of dollars over people.

  25. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    are they seriously spending time on this?

    Get back to work already!

  26. badlydrawnjeff says:

    @Chicago7: I find that the imposition of someone’s beliefs on others is a much bigger problem than someone selling a product that no one is forced to buy.

    This demonization of smoking, smokers, and all things associated with it must stop. It’s going too far.

  27. Chicago7 says:

    Well, that was no good. My post was eaten. Try again.

    This wouldn’t stop anybody from smoking, if they really wanted to. It would be immoral NOT to put a warning on a harmful product.

    If morality is a question, we need to remember that the cigarette CEOs stood up, under oath, before Congress and stated there were no studies that they knew of, that lead to harmful effects from smoking cigarettes. Now, THAT’s IMMORALITY.

  28. mac-phisto says:

    @Chicago7: are you so sure that is the reason they’re taxed? is the lottery “taxed” so people will stop? oh wait, that’s different. the state runs the lottery. & if this measure is all about reducing smokers, why is philip morris endorsing the bill?

    “The honey pot right now is tobacco excise taxes. The fact is, they’ll find, if they implement those, that there will be a reduction in tobacco usage,” Burr said in a recent interview. He said the move would imperil state budgets that rely on tobacco taxes to ease shortfalls.

    that is why tobacco is taxed. people smoke; governments make money. the real question is: what will be the next “cigarette” when the return from tobacco taxes begins to diminish?

    now, let’s all sit back & watch the big cockroaches fight the small cockroaches for crumbs.

  29. Chicago7 says:


    This isn’t a “belief”. This is facts, verified by study after study. Is smoking a religion now?

    Nobody’s “demonizing” smokers by these labels.

  30. umrain says:

    I don’t care so much about the health effects, but how about some labels that say things like:

    “Hi. Please, don’t litter at every street corner, bus stop, park bench, and every other outdoor space on the face of the earth where you might happen to loiter for more than a second. Thanks.”


    “Could you maybe take your clothes to the dry cleaner once in a while or something because they still reek? Okay, thanks.”

    Actually, speaking of that, there also needs to be some sort of warning label on perfumes and colognes saying something like:

    “Hey when you use this you don’t need to use so much that there is a 12′-radius cloud emanting from you, okay?”

    But now I am going off on a tanget, so I will stop at that.

    (p.s. Okay, I know these warning labels have know chance of getting past any sort of Government Passive-Aggressiveness Oversight Committee, but I’m just sayin’)

  31. Chicago7 says:


    That’s about the 4th time that quote has been used? Are you guys shills for the tobacco industry or what?

    I’m telling you, when tobacco is just a memory, there WILL BE OTHER THINGS TO TAX. Don’t worry about it.

  32. badlydrawnjeff says:

    @Chicago7: I guess there’s no way to convince you that this has nothing to do with anyone’s health, and instead has to do with making sure tobacco is eradicated.

    Screw personal choice, Daddy knows better.

  33. pine22 says:

    you cant save people from themselves, no amount of packaging or labels will deter a smoker from continuing. tobacco itself is not what is killing smokers, its the massive amounts of chemicals added to them for “flavor”. if the FDA has balls, then maybe they will limit the amount of additives the companies can add.

    i find it astounding that people will still blame tobacco companies for their lung cancer after years of smoking, while pretending like they never knew it was bad for them.

  34. mac-phisto says:

    @Chicago7: i’m not just a shill. i’m the shill. in fact, i’m so shillicious, i’m MR. THE SHILL. ooh, let’s bold that too: MR. THE SHILL. that’s better.

    thanks for the ad hominem. HIGH FIVE!

  35. Steel_Pelican says:

    @badlydrawnjeff: I think you’re missing the point here. This legislation isn’t “demonizing” smoking or smokers. The warning labels don’t say “smokers are evil.” They say “smoking is unhealthy.” A moral statement would be to say “smoking is wrong” or “smoking is un-Christian.” Nothing in the proposed legislation would include that kind of language.

    This is NOT an attempt to “eradicate” tobacco, just control it. This ENABLES personal choice, instead of impeding it. A label doesn’t prohibit your choice to smoke or not, it simply informs you of the implications of your choice.

    It seems like you’re all for personal choice, and if you are, we totally agree on that point. But in order to have a society where adults are free to choose whatever they want, we need to make sure that those adults are accountable for their choices. One of the tools to ensure that kind of accountability is warnings- to make sure adults make informed choices, so if they screw themselves it’s their own fault.

  36. hoo_foot says:

    Consumerist forgot to mention that one part of this bills calls for a ban on clove cigarettes. I don’t even smoke, yet I still found that completely unnecessary and over-the-top.

  37. badlydrawnjeff says:

    I won’t beat the dead horse further. If there’s some strong evidence that people are not aware of the effects of cigarettes, this might be warranted.

  38. mac-phisto says:

    “why” is the important question here.

    why does PM want fda approval? rumor has it that they have a few new “safer” tobacco products that they want to release on the market (search “snus” & “electronically heated cigarette smoking system”). problem is, they can’t release it w/o fda approval & if the fda doesn’t regulate tobacco…well, you see where i’m going with this.

    why do the feds want this? well, that’s an easy one. increased $$$.

    but why do we want this? that’s the tough question. less & less people smoke every year, which is a good thing. but as tax revenue from tobacco dries up, states & the feds will be looking elsewhere for tax revenue. eventually, they’re going to tax something that affects you – big time.

    unless you like big government & you’re prepared to pony up when the tax man starts knocking on your door, i think telling your reps “just say no” is the smart option here.

  39. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    Here’s an idea for the government – spend less money.
    I know, I know. This is shocking, but stay with me.
    Government is a naturally inefficient user of capital, yes?
    So how do we stop constantly inflating budgets? Right – elect fiscally responsible representatives.

  40. junkmail says:

    @badlydrawnjeff: Dad? When did you get a computer?

    Seriously, I always thought my dad was the most militant smoker on the face of the earth. I stand corrected.

  41. synergy says:

    @Steel_Pelican and @Cowboys_fan: Good points by both of you.

    Having worked with a phD who did research on nicotine addiction, I can tell you that the nicotine stinks, but it actually has some positive effects. On the brain anyway. In cigarettes, if I recall correctly, it’s the tar and formaldehyde? and other nasty stuff that contributes to killing you.

  42. asscore says:

    Wow I’ve seen so much BS in the posts that it’s laughable. So I’m going to rant for a second…

    Secondhand Smoke. You smelling a cigarette as someone passes you on the street, or in the car next to you in traffic doesn’t constitute exposure to secondhand smoke. You going to a George Thorogood concert might count. Militant antismokers love to whip out this point, but it rarely has merit.

    Taxation to keep tobacco out of the hands of the kids. Doesn’t work at all. Kids will get smokes no matter what. They can be $20 a pack and kids will still get smokes. Do you know what kind of disposable income kids have these days?! I couldnt get my parents to spring for pez! And I’ve seen kids picking butts out of ashtrays. Try to stop that! Besides that a punitive taxation is a very slippery slope.

    Warning Labels. Laughable. You could have a 3d hologram come out of the pack that shows you YOUR LUNGS AS YOUR SMOKING THAT MOMENT. Guess how many people would stop smoking? Not alot. Society has been conditioned to ignore most warning labels as they’re usually there to indemnify a company from legal damages. i.e. “do not insert Fiskars(TM) brand scissors in rectum, eyes or any other orifice”

    As for all this talk of “controlling” tobacco I say BOOOOO. Is it just me or hasn’t tobacco already been controlled since someone first pointed out that “cigarettes are bad for you!” DUH. They are taxed, regulated, and legally banned for those too young to be smart enough to make an informed decision for themselves. Now I’m sure someone will say “no, they haven’t been regulated”… There’s this government entity called the Bureau of Alcohol, TOBACCO, and Firearms (and explosives). I think they can continue oversight of this, and keep it away from FDA… who has repeatedly proven inept and corrupt.(Not that BATF hasn’t also… but more on guns and not tobacco)

    Smoking ban at taverns. I don’t want to even get started on this one. But I will. A little. If the market demanded a non-smoking bar they would be all over the place. It’s your choice to go to a smoke filled bar. And too bad if your favorite band or whatever is playing there. Some snobby rich guy opened up a non-smoking bar in the town I grew up in. It was called something like “the Chancery” but everyone in town called it the “No Smoking Bar”(I’m not making this up). He had a few snobby customers but soon enough he went out of business. The market didn’t exist for what he had envisioned. Maybee out in California the market would like this sort of establishment. But in Wisconsin everyone smokes WHILE they drink. So thats that.

    Littering (by tossing butts). Not everyone does it. Littering sucks. All cars have an ashtray. Use it! But the implication of the posts seems to be “if you smoke you are a litterbug!” Nothing pisses me off more than watching someone litter anything.

    And the main thing that pissed me off in one of the posts the guy who implies that his tax money shouldn’t be spent on removing some smokers trachea. Society should bear the cost of the ills of all of its citizens. Blindly. Because where would you draw the line on denying someone medical care. He smokes. He drinks. He lives in a high pollution area. He doesn’t eat enough vegetables.
    I don’t think we need to give the heath care industry reasons to squirm out of saving someones life.

    Thats it, I’m done.

  43. JayXJ says:

    God this stuff drives me crazy. Joe Camel did not kick down my door, put a .45 to my head, and yell “light up you motherF&%ker!”. I made the choice to smoke. If I don’t make the choice to quit (harder than you think), I will suffer the consequences.
    I don’t need endless government regulation…I KNOW I’m being stupid, warning lables will not change that.
    The public smoking bans are asine as well. If a resturant owner does or does not want to allow smoking that should be thier choice. They are the ones that have put blood, sweat, and tears into owning thier own business–not the city government.

  44. Chicago7 says:

    How are kids going to afford $20/pack cigarettes? How are kids going to afford $10/pack cigarettes?

    JayP71, are you saying advertising doesn’t work? Wow. You had better tell that to the multi-billion dollar ad campaigns that are run EVERY DAY.

  45. Chicago7 says:

    Also, if you say that you aren’t affected by the warning labels, then why do you care that they are on there?

    Maybe SOMEBODY will care about the warning labels and won’t start smoking or will quit, and THAT’S A GOOD THING.

  46. asscore says:

    How are kids gonna afford $10 and $20 packs of cigarettes? Easy.
    The same way they can afford Ipods, cellphones, and all the other crap kids shouldn’t be able to afford but do nowdays. It’s called PARENTS. I watched one of my little cousins ask my aunt for spending cash the other day. She gave him $100. He’s twelve years old! I about blew a gasket. When I was his age I had to steal pennies and nickels from my moms change jar to go buy Bazooka Joe/mike & ikes.
    Then there is stealing from stores. That always works. And roll your own tobacco, which is very affordable. And stealing them from parents…. or not even stealing them, when I was a kid I couldn’t tell you how many parents bought ciggs for their kids! Starting at like age 13/14/15!

    Its like saying kids can’t afford weed because it’s expensive. High quality grass sells for like $50 for 1/8th of an ounce. You see any shortage of teenagers smoking weed?

    Not matter what the cost of the social ills, kids just like adults will find a way to get it. In the same numbers as before. They will just have less money because the vice costs more.

    As for the warning labels, I’m not against them. And if they help someone not start smoking to begin with, great! I just think they have close to zero percent success rate. Pictures of black-rot lung and all.

  47. mac-phisto says:

    do a little research about “death cigarettes”. they were fairly popular in the u.k. awhile back – don’t know what happened to them since.

    those cigarettes were in a black pack with a skull & crossbones, said “DEATH” & something like “SMOKING KILLS” on them. people still bought them. people still smoked them.

  48. Chicago7 says:

    If you have the choice to buy an iPod or cigarettes, which are you going to buy?

    That’s WHY we want labels on cigarettes – to say, this is STUPID, buy music or posters INSTEAD.

    If a kid is going to steal to get cigarettes, that kid has bigger problems than just smoking.

    The whole “weed” thing is just a distraction. Are you saying that it’s OK to buy cigarettes because it’s cheaper than weed?

    You THINK that these labels have no effect, so why are you against them? What’s it to you?

  49. Chicago7 says:

    Are all you pro-cigarette people saying that we SHOULDN’T make an effort to keep people from smoking?

    They should all join in on your addiction?

  50. Chicago7 says:


    Is that brand still active or was it just a fad?

  51. Chicago7 says:

    OK, just so you know, “Death” cigarettes were only popular because they avoided paying slightly higher British taxes versus Dutch taxes.

    They went out of business in 1999 – it was just a fad.

  52. Cowboys_fan says:

    @asscore: Dude your paying too much for your weed, I pay $35 at worst ;-)

  53. mac-phisto says:

    @Chicago7: i’m not pro-cigarette, i’m anti-taxes. IF these taxes were just to reduce smoking, that’s fine. but that’s not what this is; it’s a revenue-generator. politicians LOVE cigarettes b/c they are evil & they can justify taxing the hell out of them as long as people like you are around waving the banner for them. “see, my constituents WANT this! i must vote for it! pay no attention to the heaping pile of money behind the curtain, that is of no consequence!”

    the problem with revenue-generators is that you create a revenue stream that people become dependent upon. when the revenue dries up, it has to come from somewhere else. so what are we going to tax in 10 years to pay for all the inflated budgets created by this windfall?

    THAT is my concern. tax the hell out of cigarettes if you want to, BUT every single dollar generated should go into cessation programs & products, the offset of health care costs of smokers, anti-smoking advertising – not education funding, child healthcare, or (as they do here in ct) just pouring the money into the general fund to disperse as they wish. that creates a dependency, which creates the conflicts of interest like we see here.

  54. Chicago7 says:

    If you want to be anti-tax, there are PLENTY of better spots to fight.

  55. jerseyjokeboy says:

    You know, at first I was against the smoking ban. But as a non-smoker I am seriously fed up with people camping out at subway entrances and sidewalks puffing that shit right in my face when I walk by.

    So thanks for that second hand smoke, but no thanks. Why don’t you just ruin your health by sucking on cancer sticks at your own residence?