WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a bill that would authorize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, H.R. 1108, would grant the FDA authority over the manufacture, promotion and sale of such products as cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has worked with other religious organizations for several years in advocating for FDA regulation of tobacco. The ERLC distributed a message July 28 from President Richard Land via e-mail and on its website urging support for the measure.
Saying the House vote may take place the same week, Land wrote, “This common-sense bill would end special treatment of tobacco companies, empowering the FDA to subject the products to similar scrutiny required of foods, drugs and safety devices.
“Deceptive ‘light’ and ‘low-tar’ labeling of cigarettes and clever marketing at the tune of $13 billion annually are dubious trademarks of the tobacco industry,” Land said. “Such practices account for the roughly 400,000 American lives snuffed out each year due to tobacco-related illnesses.”
Studies show that children are “three times more likely than adults to be influenced by tobacco marketing,” Land said, “and they become addicted to tobacco at a rate of 1,000 each day.”
“These trends must end,” Land said.
Supporters of the legislation hope it will empower the FDA to ban candy-flavored cigarettes and to crack down on tobacco sales to minors.
Some members of Congress have expressed doubts about whether the FDA is the appropriate government entity to regulate tobacco or whether it has the resources to fulfill such an assignment.
The Southern Baptist Convention has passed tobacco-related resolutions dating to 1932. A 1984 resolution urged churches and other SBC entities to encourage Southern Baptists not to use tobacco. It also called on Southern Baptist farmers not to raise tobacco but to grow another crop when feasible. In 2005, the SBC adopted a resolution urging an increased effort to reduce smoking among teenagers.
In his e-mail message, Land encouraged recipients to contact their representative by phone — 202-224-3121 -– or e-mail –- www.house.gov -– to request a “yes” vote for the measure.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.