WASHINGTON -- While current law does not grant the Food and Drug Administration here regulatory authority over the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products, there are several bills pending review in both the House and the Senate that would establish federal guidelines, expanding the FDA's scope to include such products.
The effort to hold tobacco companies to universal standards of production and marketing is a largely bipartisan issue; however, lawmakers differ on the legislative approach. Certain bills would amend current law to treat tobacco as a drug or medical device, which some cigarette companies claim would be tantamount to banning the sale of tobacco altogether.
Alternative proposals would create a separate category to accommodate tobacco. Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris has come out strongly in support of the latter option as a means to address many of the public health concerns facing tobacco today, such as youth smoking prevention. According to Mark Berlind, attorney for Philip Morris Management Corp., New York, a uniform set of marketing and access restrictions would also serve as an effective competitive equalizer for the entire industry.
"The major players tend to be the most responsible," he said. "A lot of the enforcement issues come up in the smaller venues. This will level the playing field not only for us, but for retailers as well."
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Louisville, Ky., has been vocal in denouncing the proposed legislation as posing a regulatory burden too heavy for smaller manufacturers to sustain. Representatives from Brown & Williamson could not be reached for comment.
Despite such contentious grappling, retailers SN spoke with do not see the question of federal regulation as particularly pertinent at the retail level. Eddie Copeland, store manager at Piggly Wiggly, Adamsville, Tenn., said that tobacco sales in his store have remained steady throughout the litigious tumult, and he doubts action on Capitol Hill will have any greater effect.