New tobacco oversight weighed

Pedestrians enter Phillips Morris headquarters in New York.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Congress has tried for years to impose stronger regulations on cigarette makers. So far, it has failed. But there's a new push in Washington. Today, a House committee takes up a bill that would give the FDA new powers over the industry. And even some tobacco companies are going along with this. John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: Advocates of regulating tobacco figure this year they're closer than ever to approving government oversight of the industry. New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone is a co-sponsor.

Frank Pallone: We have the votes, and we even are bringing along some more progressive Republicans too.

Led by one of the biggest cigarette makers, Phillip Morris, some tobacco manufacturers are calling today's legislation an important step toward a comprehensive national tobacco policy.

Lehman Brothers health policy analyst Tony Clapsis says cigarette companies are beginning to see regulations are inevitable.

Tony Clapsis: Politically, if you think the legislation is going to move, you try and adopt a more constructive argument. Or on the flip side, you agree with Phillip Morris that having FDA regulation does give it sort of a measure of safety and you'd rather operate in that environment than one in which you're an unregulated entity.

The head of the FDA opposes government oversight, saying it will give an unintended seal of approval to tobacco. But sponsors of the bill say President Bush will be hard-pressed to veto it in an election year.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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