The U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week approved an amendment that would seriously weaken a 2009 law that lets the Food and Drug Administration order changes in tobacco products in the interest of public health.
The action was roundly condemned by four of the nation's most reliable pro-health groups: the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association.
While the amendment to the Department of Agriculture funding bill would apply to all products regulated by the FDA, it would in particular weaken the bipartisan law, passed less than two years ago, that was aimed at protecting children from the tobacco industry. Among other things, it gave the FDA authority to prohibit adding flavorings and other ingredients to cigarettes that would make them more appealing to children.
If the amendment stands it would mean that the FDA could not stop tobacco companies from adding ingredients, such as sugar, that attract children, or that make it easier for children to become addicted or that make it harder for smokers to quit.
The amendment would restrict the kind of scientific evidence on which the FDA bases its orders. It would prevent the agency from considering the impact of an ingredient on consumer behavior or whether an ingredient increases tobacco use by children.
The amendment's author, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said it was not aimed specifically at tobacco regulation. But the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids noted that the 29 committee members who voted for the amendment took a total of $289,927 from tobacco industry PACs over the past three election cycles, compared with just $10,000 taken by the 20 who voted against it. Oklahoma Fourth District Rep. Tom Cole voted for the amendment.
The full House of Representatives should defeat this egregious amendment which serves to loosen the reins on the tobacco companies.