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Panel Approves Cigarette Packs Warnings

By ANDREW BRIDGES
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 25, 2007; 6:40 PM

WASHINGTON -- Cigarette packs would bear graphic warnings that illustrate the health risks of smoking under a provision added Wednesday to landmark tobacco legislation pending in a Senate committee.

The warnings would mimic those already used in Canada and elsewhere.

"These warnings convey the truth in no uncertain terms," said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. Enzi opposes the overall bill, however, saying that it doesn't do enough to support smoking cessation programs.

The amendment was accepted as part of overall legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority for the first time to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began considering the bill Wednesday but delayed final action until Thursday after losing a quorum.

The bill has broad support in the Senate, where 52 Senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

"They recognize that giving FDA authority over tobacco products is essential to effectively addressing the tobacco health crisis," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

But some lawmakers opposed the legislation, saying it would overburden an already busy agency.

"FDA is having a very difficult time performing its current responsibilities. To add such an enormous responsibility such as regulating tobacco simply doesn't make sense," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

An amendment offered by Hatch that would delay implementation of the legislation while its cost and impact on the FDA is studied was defeated 12-9.

The program would be funded by $450 million a year in fees collected from the tobacco industry. The fees work out to an estimated 2.5 cents per pack.

© 2007 The Associated Press