This was a vote on House passage of H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which authorized the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) to regulate the marketing and production of tobacco products, to the committee that developed it. The legislation was a response to a thirteen year old Supreme Court ruling that Congress had to give specific authority to the FDA for it to be able to apply this regulation. The bill specifically directed the FDA to end the marketing and sales of tobacco to children, to prevent cigarette manufacturers from calling cigarettes `light' or `less dangerous', and to require the removal of certain damaging materials from cigarettes. The Act also established a new fee paid for by the cigarette industry to fund the additional work that would be required of the FDA.
Rep. Waxman, who was leading the Democratic supporter of the bill, had previously argued that “regulating tobacco is the single most important thing we can do right now to curb (its) deadly toll, and FDA is the only agency with the right combination of scientific expertise, regulatory experience, and public health mission to oversee these products effectively.”
Rep. Rogers (R-MI), had argued that the Act would place too large an additional burden on the FDA. The impact, he claimed, would be that the FDA Commissioner would then continually have to decide between working on the limitations and prohibitions on cigarettes mandated in the bill and devoting resources to examining food facilities and undertaking research on various diseases.
Rep, Waxman (D-CA), had responded that “this bill will not divert resources away from other important functions at the Food and Drug Administration (because) it is fully funded by a user fee from the tobacco industry . . . and none of the funds to deal with tobacco will come out of other activities at FDA.” He added that the bill also allowed the FDA to borrow money to support the early stages of the new program to insure that other FDA funds were not diverted from their usual purposes. Waxman noted that the measure “is supported by 1,000 public health and other groups, including the Heart Association, the Lung Association, the Cancer Society and the American Public Health Association. They would not support this bill if it did what (Rep. Rogers) claims it does . . . .”
Rep. Smith (R-TX) expressed his opposition to the measure because the prohibitions on cigarette marketing in the bill constitute “speech restrictions . . . that raise serious first amendment concerns.” He expressed his belief that the result will be “a swarm of lawsuits that will only divert us from trying to develop more effective approaches to tobacco use in the United States.”
The bill passed by a vote of 298- 112. Two hundred and twenty-eight Democrats and seventy Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and four Republicans and eight Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House passed and sent on to the Senate legislation authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the marketing and production of cigarettes and other tobacco products.