Jun. 14 2001
Washington, DC — The legislation introduced today by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) regarding U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products would result in business as usual for the tobacco industry and do nothing to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco. Passing this legislation would be worse than having no legislation at all. It would create the illusion that something has been done to address the problem, while 3,000 more kids continue to become addicted every day and 400,000 Americans continue to die every year of tobacco-caused disease. This bill would not require any meaningful changes in current tobacco company marketing practices or permit the FDA to require tobacco companies to reduce the harm their products cause. Make no mistake, this is the tobacco industry's bill and that is why every major public health organization already opposes it.
It is a testament to the tobacco industry's political influence that FDA legislation protecting the industry's interests has now been introduced by the chairmen of the Republican Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees. Rep. Davis chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), while the sponsor of similar legislation in the Senate, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). To get its way on FDA and other issues, the tobacco industry made more than $8.3 million in federal campaign contributions this past election, 83 percent of it to Republicans. Philip Morris, the main proponent of sham FDA legislation, was the single largest donor of unregulated "soft money" from 1992 to 2000, giving a total of $9.5 million, most of it to Republicans. In the most recent election, Philip Morris gave more than $2.3 million in soft money, including $557,249 to the NRSC and $534,632 to the NRCC. The industry is getting a hefty return on its political investments.
Fortunately, good, bipartisan bills to give the FDA real authority over tobacco products have been introduced in both the House and the Senate. These bills are H.R. 1097 by Reps. Ganske, Dingell and Waxman, and S. 247 by Sens. Harkin, Chafee and Graham. Rep. Waxman has also introduced a separate bill, H.R. 1043.
These bills would allow the FDA to restrict tobacco marketing to protect the public health, including those forms of marketing that have the greatest appeal to children, and would dramatically curtail illegal tobacco sales to children. They would also apply to tobacco the same basic public health standards that apply to other products. These bills would allow the FDA to require tobacco companies to reduce or eliminate harmful components found in tobacco products and smoke, require independent scientific testing of products and health claims, and prohibit or restrict health claims that are unsubstantiated or harm public health.