A scientific advisory panel to the FDA found that menthol makes it easier for young smokers to take up the habit and harder for addicted smokers to quit. But the expert panel, which said a menthol ban would benefit the public health, said the mint-flavored products do not pose greater individual risk to smokers than standard cigarettes in terms of lung cancer, stroke and other diseases.
The Rehberg amendment would also prevent the FDA from restricting the widespread use of antibiotics in feed for farm animals, which many public health experts believe has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten human health.
About 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals, to help speed their growth and protect against illness in crowded farm conditions.
Groups including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have called on the FDA to ban the feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals. Scientists say that overuse of antibiotics in humans is a significant source of the problem but that there is growing circumstantial and genetic evidence that antibiotics given to animals are compounding the threat.
Agricultural interests oppose those limits, saying there is no scientific proof that farm animals are the problem.
“We have had discussions on the antibiotics used for livestock and pork and how they’re not using sound science on that, and I’m glad the gentleman has offered this amendment and I support it,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said.
The lone Democrat on the committee who voted in favor of the amendment, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (Ga.), said he represents cattle, pork and poultry farmers who are worried about the regulation of antibiotics.
“To the extent you can protect producers from unnecessary regulation, obviously with the economy and job situation being what it is we would like to have the most bang for the buck in terms of the producers,” he said.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the sponsors of the 2009 law that gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, pledged Wednesday to try to defeat the Rehberg rider when the appropriations bill goes to the full House for a vote.
“This amendment ties FDA’s hands and will prevent the agency from taking basic steps to protect us from highly lethal threats, like tainted foods and drugs,” Waxman said in a statement. “Simply put, it will endanger American lives.”