Should We Allow the FDA to Regulate Tobacco?

Speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, February 1, 1996, by Rep. Ed Bryant (R-TN)

"Mr. BRYANT of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I know you were as relieved as I was to hear the President reveal that the 'era of big Government is over.' This likely will be welcome news to the millions of Americans who are fed up with a Federal Government which has spent itself into a $5 trillion debt and which has been injecting itself into nearly every aspect of the lives of working men and women in the process.

"Unfortunately, it appears that the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration was not watching the President's address last week because the FDA is still pressing forward with its plans to regulate tobacco.

"In the President's new era of smaller Government, the FDA has proposed, in 140 pages in the Federal Register, to wrest from Congress, from the Federal agencies and from the States, the authority to regulate the sale, distribution, advertising, and promotion of tobacco. The FDA has made this proposal despite the fact that Congress has traditionally left to the States most elements of tobacco regulation--including age of purchase.

"The President also outlined, in his State of the Union Address, a number of challenges he sees facing our Nation--including preventing underage tobacco use. However, I would remind the President that Congress has already risen to this challenge, having enacted in 1992, the ADAMHA Reorganization Act, requiring the States, as a condition for receiving certain Federal grants, to enact and enforce laws preventing the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors.

"Although this legislation became law before Mr. Clinton took office, it was only last week that his Department of Health and Human Services issued its final rule for implementation. Indeed, it took the Department almost 2 1/2 years from the time it issued its proposed rule to the time it promulgated its final rule.

"This delay helps underscore the inherent limitations of big Government and serves as proof that Congress had the right idea when it granted to the States, and not to the Federal Government, responsibility for reducing underage tobacco use.

"While the Federal Government has a legitimate interest in preventing the purchase of tobacco products by minors, the matter is properly the domain of State governments, not a Federal agency acting without congressional authorization or direction.The individual States are much better equipped to deal with the complex factors involved with underage use, than is the FDA with its 'one size fits all' approach and its unwieldy bureaucracy.

"Mr. Speaker, since all 50 States already have laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to persons under age 18, I would think that the FDA's time and resources could be better spent on approving new medicines and medical devices and allow the States to combat underage tobacco use."

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