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Senate Bill Would Allow FDA to Regulate Cigarette Nicotine Levels

WASHINGTON, DC -- August 3, 2007 -- A proposed bill, S. 625, would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco. The agency would be able to restrict tobacco sales, advertising and promotion. It could make inspections, require cigarette company disclosures and mandate record keeping and fees.

S. 625 would also allow the FDA to set cigarette nicotine levels. The bill does not go as far as allowing the agency to reduce nicotine levels to zero, but does require much stronger warning labels on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the sponsor of S. 625, testified at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last month. He said that his legislation would:

  • Reduce youth smoking by preventing tobacco ads that target children.
  • Help prevent the sale of tobacco to minors.
  • Make tobacco products less addictive for those who continue to smoke.
  • Stop misleading tobacco ads.
  • Prohibit unsubstantiated health claims about "reduced risk" tobacco products.

Tobacco Hazards

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. It also causes oral and throat cancers; cancers of the kidneys, bladder, stomach, cervix, and pancreas; leukemia; heart disease; chronic lung disease and sudden infant death syndrome. Over 400,000 Americans die each year because of tobacco use. Reducing the use of tobacco among today's minors by half would prevent over 10 million children from becoming smokers, thus saving over 3 million from premature deaths, according to the introductory section of S. 625.

The nicotine in cigarettes causes addiction and continued smoking. Researchers have found that the cigarette companies manipulated and increased cigarette nicotine levels over the years (see Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes Increasing). Recently, the Institute of Medicine recommended giving the FDA power to regulate cigarette nicotine levels to counteract this trend, something that the agency would be allowed to do under S. 625 (Ending the Tobacco Problem, A Blueprint for the Nation).

Getting More Information About Tobacco Legislation

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are among the public health and consumer groups that support S. 625. The bill has 52 cosponsors, including 12 Republicans. An almost identical bill, H.R. 1108 was introduced in the House.

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