FDA tobacco bill advances in Congress

Just when the FDA is getting plenty of criticism for lackluster oversight of food and drugs, it could be facing a new challenge: regulating tobacco. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is set to vote this week on legislation that would put tobacco under the aegis of the FDA, and lawmakers say a bill could be on the president's desk before midyear.

The legislation has some strong backers--rep. Henry Waxman, chair of Energy and Commerce; and Sen. Ted Kennedy, to name two. And it's supported by anti-tobacco advocacy groups, not to mention Philip Morris (though other tobacco companies oppose it). It would set up a new FDA office, financed by tobacco industry fees, to oversee cigarettes and other tobacco products. It would have the power to restrain marketing to young people, and could entertain a ban on menthol.

But the bill isn't universally liked. According to the New York Times, public health physicians are among those who don't like the legislation as it's currently written. "This bill will be worse than no bill at all," the group's chairman told the Times.

- read the NYT story