|As part of the measure passed by the Senate, U.S. tobacco farmers would get $12 billion and the FDA would get authority over the manufacturing, sale and marketing of tobacco products.
The historic vote was hailed by public interest groups as a long-sought triumph over a dangerous product that threatens the public health, and condemned by marketing industry organizations as a "content-based censorship of advertising" that violated the First Amendment.
However, the exact future of the measure is unclear. It is part of a complex corporate tax bill that now moves to a joint committee of the House and Senate for further debate and adjustments.
'Buy Out' bill
The legislation is widely referred to here as a "Buy Out" bill because it originated as a House measure that, among other things, would pay out $12 billion to American farmers likely to be hurt by a continuing decline in tobacco product sales and impact of cheaper tobacco crops overseas.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a sponsor of the Senate measure that expanded on an earlier House version, said the bill "would give the FDA authority to stop tobacco advertising where it would seen by significant numbers of children."
Sen. Don Nickels, R-Okla., warned about the implications of such landmark advertising restrictions. "If Congress wants to ban tobacco, it should. This is too sweeping," he said.
If passed as law, the legislation would restore to the FDA the broad tobacco regulations it promulgated in 1996
|The Senate bill does not ban tobacco products but would strictly control their packaging and promotion.
Those tough curbs drew the ire of the marketing industry; one restriction prohibits the use of color or imagery in tobacco ads in any magazine with more than 15% of readers under 18 years of age.
Ad groups threaten suit
Advertising trade groups are now worried that the Senate's new proposed tobacco curbs could ultimately be applied against the marketing communications that promote other controversial products such as fast food, alcohol and violent TV programming. Ad organizations said last night that they still hoped the House wouldn't accept the Senate's changes. They also threatened to file suit to block the plan if necessary.
In a letter to some senators, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers called the legislation "content-based censorship of advertising" and said it violated the First Amendment. They cited sections of the FDA rules barring sponsorship of events under brand names, requiring tobacco makers to spend $150 million a year to fund an anti-tobacco campaign, requiring all tobacco ads carry a government "brief statement" in addition to the Surgeon's General warning and the prohibitions against the use color or imagery in ads.
Philip Morris backs legislation
Philip Morris USA has backed the legislation, while other tobacco makers have opposed it, saying it would lock in brand share for Philip Morris. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is opposed to the measure.
The overall "Buy Out" bill is part of vital tax legislation that undoes a new tariff imposed on some U.S. goods due to a World Trade Organization ruling. Business groups have pushed the legislation and President Bush is expected to sign it. The big question now is what version of the tobacco portion of the bill will emerge from the joint conference committee.