Date: July 12, 2017
Author: Salynn Boyles
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee made a move Wednesday to greatly weaken the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products, including flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes, and health advocacy groups were quick to condemn it.
The committee approved a rider to the agriculture funding bill that would exempt certain cigars from FDA’s authority and weaken its regulatory oversight over e-cigarettes, little cigars, and hookah tobacco.
Prior to the vote, the House committee defeated an amendment by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) to remove language from the bill that will effectively eliminate FDA’s authority to review the health hazards of thousands of tobacco products.
A second rider would exempt from FDA authority certain cigars, including many that are cheap, flavored and are most likely to appeal to children, said American Lung Association (ALA) President Harold Wimmer.
“These dangerous riders were added to this bill for the benefit of the tobacco industry and come at a time when e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among kids,” Wimmer said in a written press statement.
The riders are similar to those passed by the House Appropriations Committee last year, but the language restricting FDA’s authority under the Tobacco Control Act was dropped from the final FY2017 bill later in the appropriations process. New language in the FY2018 bill does require the FDA to develop standards for the flavors added to e-cigarettes.
ALA spokesperson Erika Sward told MedPage Today that it is not clear if the riders will suffer the same fate this time around.
“Last year there was a President committed to the Tobacco Control Act in the White House,” she said. “This year not only do you have the House attempting to undermine the Tobacco Control Act, but you also have the FDA delaying the deeming rule.”
Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said the cigar rider exempting certain cigars from FDA regulation was particularly troubling.
“Our association strongly believes that the FDA should regulate all products, since tobacco in any form presents health risks. Further, we are particularly concerned that this could create a loophole that would allow tobacco manufacturers to manipulate their products to evade the agency’s oversight,” she said in a written statement.
Brown noted that the tobacco product grandfather rider could allow thousands of tobacco products to skip FDA review.
“While we appreciate that House members included a requirement that the FDA develop a product standard for flavors in e-cigarettes, changing the grandfather date puts e-cigarette users’ health at risk,” she said.
Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Action Network, charged that the legislation would benefit the cigar and e-cigarette industries at the expense of the nation’s public health.
“Congress made a commitment to protect the health of the American people when it passed the Tobacco Control Act. Today’s committee action is a serious breach of that promise,” he said.