House votes to treat tobacco as a drug

If the U.S. House gets its way, the FDA soon may have even more power--to regulate tobacco as a drug. Reps voted overwhelmingly to charge the agency with overseeing the tobacco industry, in spite of a veto threat by President Bush. It's a move long sought by anti-smoking advocates, and one lobbied for, as you may recall, by ex-FDA chief David Kessler.

Under the bill the agency would be able to reduce the amount of addictive nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco--though not remove it altogether--plus ban various additives, such as candy and fruit flavorings designed to appeal to youngsters. And tobacco makers would have to disclose all the different additives in their products and hand over research into their effects.

In declaring its opposition, the White House said that the FDA is already overstretched as it is. But that didn't seem to bother frequent agency critic John Dingell, a vehement supporter of the measure. It's not clear as yet whether the Senate can come up with a veto-proof majority for the bill. Stay tuned; it's sure to cause lots of debate.

- read the Washington Post story
- see the article in the New York Times