Tobacco Bill Must Do More to Help People Stop Smoking (Sen. Mike Enzi)

Changes slipped into the language of a bill that would require the regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not address my underlying concern with the bill – it does not help win the war on tobacco.

Tobacco is one of the biggest contributors to our nation’s growing health care crisis.  We need to address this issue head on, not sign a peace treaty with the companies who perpetuate and profit from the crisis. Big Tobacco supports this bill because they have a stake in maintaining the status quo; I don't. They’re happy with a bill that doesn’t stop people from smoking; I’m not.  I want real change. We can and we must do better than this bill.

Authors of this bill are playing crafty word games with a flawed bill without addressing its core problem – it doesn't stop people from using tobacco.  Let’s not play games with people’s lives. Issuing an order permitting marketing is basically the definition of approval.  It's a distinction without a difference.  Forcing the FDA to approve these poisons, or permit them, or whatever term Big Tobacco agrees with the bill’s authors to use, would be a public health disaster.

My colleagues who made these changes seem to recognize that placing an FDA stamp of approval on tobacco products sends a bad message about the safety of these products. However, the implied stamp of approval that the public will attach to these products, once the FDA has reviewed them and allowed them onto the market, sends the same bad message.  It further confuses the public about safety by grandfathering in products that are already on the market, giving them a safe harbor.  This bill will allow tobacco companies to deceive the American people into believing that their products are safe.

The bill, S.625, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which is now pending before the HELP Committee, is fundamentally flawed, and the changes made recently do not address my concerns.  The bill, as introduced, would require tobacco companies to submit new products to the FDA for approval.  Authors of the bill have since changed the language so that rather than requiring FDA to “approve