From The Seattle Times:
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would give government broad new authority to regulate tobacco products, slash nicotine content and restrict advertising.
Health advocates cheered the 79-17 passage of the bill, saying it could prevent thousands of deaths and reduce the $100 billion in annual health-care costs linked to tobacco usage.
Tobacco allies said the new regulation would cost jobs, hurt farmers and maintain the market dominance of tobacco giant Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboros.
The bill would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the content and marketing of tobacco products. It would allow the agency to alter the chemical makeup to affect the taste and, health advocates hope, the addictive qualities of tobacco products.
Under the bill, nicotine in cigarettes could be cut to almost zero but not wiped out entirely.
Altria Group, the owner of Philip Morris, issued a statement praising the bill but saying it is imperfect, especially when it comes to advertising restrictions.
President Obama, an occasional smoker who has spoken of his own struggle to quit, said he was eager to sign the legislation into law, an action he said “will make history.”
Tobacco-state interests fought the legislation fiercely. North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr held up Senate floor matters for nearly two weeks to protest the bill, knowing it eventually would pass.
Other critics said tobacco should be regulated by the Agriculture Department, not the FDA.
“The FDA has no business on the family farm,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky. “And while I agree that we should do all that we can to keep cigarettes out of the hands of our kids, this bill is not the answer.”
The 17 senators who voted against the bill were mostly tobacco-state senators.
Tobacco’s influence in the nation’s capital has, on balance, waned in recent years, from a high of $10 million in contributions in the 1996 campaign cycle. Still, the industry continues to spend millions in lobbying, with by far the most amount last year — $13.8 million — spent by Altria.
From the Ledger-Enquirer:
WASHINGTON — The 17 senators who voted against allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco included some of the top recipients of campaign contributions from tobacco manufacturers.
Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is the third highest recipient of the group.
The Senate passed the FDA bill on Thursday by a 79-17 vote and the House followed suit on Friday, with a 307-97 vote.
Over the course of his more than 20-year career in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from the tobacco-rich state of Kentucky, has received $419,025 from the tobacco industry — more than any other member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that analyzes the influence of money on politics and policy.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who led the opposition to the bill, is the second highest recipient. Burr netted $359,100 from tobacco-related political action committees and individual contributions. His state is the nation’s largest tobacco grower and is home to R.J. Reynolds, the nation’s second largest tobacco manufacturing company, which contributed $196,850 to Burr’s campaigns.
Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, received $228,700. Kentucky Republicans Rep. Ed Whitfield and Sen. Jim Bunning rank fifth and eighth, with $218,935 and $194,166, respectively.
The senators say cigarette companies’ campaign contributions did not color positions on the legislation.
Yeah, and I still wear a size 2. 🙄
From CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:
From C-SPAN’s coverage of the U.S. House floor […] during floor debate on regulating tobacco products.
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN):
“Too often we should be careful about being cute here on the House floor. So cute means the reference with regard to lettuce. So I’ll follow your logic. Do you realize if you were to take that lettuce, dry it, and roll it, and smoke it. And you go ahead and you smoke your lettuce. Do you realize that you are going to end up with similar problems than if you were smoking tobaccco. It’s not the nicotine that kills. It’s the smoke that kills. So It’s the inhalation of the smoke. That’s what causes and is responsible for the pandemic of cancers, of heart disease, respiratory disease, and other disease. It’s the smoke.”
I wonder if the patch used to quit lettuce is green.
The following Senators voted no on the bill:
Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson–Georgia
Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning–Kentucky
Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts–Kansas
Richard Burr and Kay Hagan (the only Democrat to vote no)–North Carolina
Tom Coburn and James Inhofe–Oklahoma
Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham–South Carolina
Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch–Utah