Oct. 1 2003
Washington, D.C. — This afternoon, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) received a one-page proposal that was described as a final offer regarding proposed legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. Our public health organizations oppose this proposal because it would result in weak legislation that does not protect the public health. In the past several weeks, we have made concessions and proposed compromises in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues, but this offer does not address the concerns that we have raised in any significant way. Should this proposal be put to a vote, we would be forced to oppose it and urge all Senators to vote against it.
Based on today's proposal, the legislation would contain significant loopholes that would allow the tobacco industry to tie the hands of the FDA when it tried to require changes in tobacco products to reduce the tremendous harm they cause. A weak bill is worse than no bill because it would create the illusion that the American people are protected.
The latest proposal greatly diminishes the chances of taking advantage of an historic opportunity both to help tobacco farmers and promote the public health. Tobacco remains one of the nation's least regulated and most harmful consumer products. Enactment of strong FDA legislation is perhaps the most important action this Congress can take to protect the nation's public health. It is regrettable that this opportunity may now be lost.
As we have made clear in the past, the public health community stands ready to support legislation that grants the Food and Drug Administration truly meaningful authority over tobacco products. This is what the American public wants, and what they expect.