On May 20 we made history: For the first time, we reached true bipartisan agreement on legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate the marketing and manufacture of tobacco products. That's great news for parents like me who pray their children don't become part of the unfortunate group of young Americans each year who fall prey to crafty marketing tactics, get hooked on tobacco and begin down the road of disease and suffering.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA comprehensive, effective authority to oversee the tobacco industry. This is landmark legislation that embodies a bipartisan compromise between my committee's ranking member, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), and me -- one that, importantly, has been endorsed by both the public health community and the largest cigarette manufacturer in the country [Philip Morris, based in Richmond]. It offers a chance for Congress to address this important issue in a reasonable, fair and effective manner.
I want to congratulate the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris for working diligently, honestly and forthrightly and for having the courage to break out of their old patterns so that they can support the important compromises contained in this bill.
As the name implies, one of the bill's primary focuses is to keep our children away from tobacco products -- to protect them from being targeted by the tobacco industry, keep them from becoming addicted, and keep them healthier and stronger without the detrimental effects of tobacco.
But the bill also seeks to help adult smokers -- by empowering the FDA to develop programs to help them quit, regulate the way that manufacturers talk about their products and, importantly, work on ways to reduce the toxicity of tobacco products so they ultimately will cause less and less disease over time.
We all know smoking isn't healthy. But a lot of people are surprised to learn that no federal agency can force tobacco companies to list the ingredients in their products -- we're talking about ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde. This legislation offers FDA that authority and more.
Specifically, the bill allows the FDA to remove harmful substances from tobacco products, whether or not they are already on the market. It codifies the marketing and access restrictions found in the 1996 FDA regulation [governing the marketing and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors]. These restrictions would go into effect shortly after enactment of the bill and be subject to federal enforcement that has been carefully crafted to address the concerns of the retailer community.
Furthermore, the bill allows the FDA to regulate the use of descriptors, such as "light'' and "ultralight,'' to ensure they will not mislead consumers. It also contains specific provisions designed to reduce the trade in counterfeit and other illicit tobacco products in our country, which is costing governments at all levels billions of dollars a year.
The bill establishes effective rules that would be applied equally to all tobacco manufacturers. Its advertising restrictions will have to fit within the parameters of the free-speech protections offered by the First Amendment, and its rules for responsible manufacturing practices contain special provisions to ensure that companies needing extra time to comply will be able to get it.
Ultimately, I think this legislation needs to be combined with a tobacco quota buyout. Tobacco growers in Virginia and elsewhere have waited far too long for relief from a Depression-era anachronism that has placed them in dire financial straits. The government-created quota system needs to be bought out and eliminated. Many, myself included, believe that such a buyout won't come unless it is coupled with FDA legislation. This bill represents my contribution to help those tobacco growers desperate for relief.
This legislation contains the best of the concepts many of us have been working on for many years. It will serve the best interests of public health while being fair to all components of the tobacco industry.
I've seen firsthand the end result of a life of tobacco use. My father died of emphysema -- tragically, prematurely. I am confident this legislation will help other sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers -- the 400,000 Americans who die from tobacco-related illness every year -- avoid that same fate.
Two weeks ago, members of Congress introduced legislation that would give the federal government broad new power to regulate the sale, distribution and advertising of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was a sponsor.