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Tobacco Controls

June 26, 1993

* While encouraging support for proposed legislation to establish control by the Food and Drug Administration over tobacco, your editorial (May 23) claimed that cigarettes are largely free of regulatory control. This statement does not withstand even minimal scrutiny, and ignores the many statutes and regulations that govern virtually every aspect of the growing, manufacture, marketing and use of tobacco and tobacco products.

Ingredients in cigarettes are monitored by the Office of Smoking and Health, Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco manufacturers are required to submit annually to the HHS a complete list of all ingredients added to tobacco. The HHS is required by statute to conduct and support research and to inform the public concerning any relationship between tobacco products and health.

Other agencies involved in the control of tobacco include the Department of Agriculture, Federal Trade Commission and the Bureau of Firearms, Alcohol and Tobacco. Regulations require tobacco manufacturers to report yearly to the FTC on the tar and nicotine content in cigarettes. The FTC and the BATF also monitor and control aspects of packaging and advertising of cigarettes.

Also false is the statement that tobacco growers retain considerable federal subsidies. The Department of Agriculture establishes crop and price allocations yearly for tobacco and 10 other commodities including corn, rice, peanuts and cotton. If tobacco does not bring the federally established floor price at auction in a given year, the tobacco is stored in warehouses and a loan is advanced to growers by a farmers' cooperative. When the crop is later sold, the growers repay the loan with interest. Since 1982 each participating farmer has contributed to a fund held by his cooperative to ensure repayment of loans.

Your editorial also supported the federal bill because it proposed to set a minimum age of 18 for buying tobacco products. As you stated, most states already have a minimum age law. Today all 50 states and the District of Columbia have minimum age laws of 18 or 19. What is required is stricter law enforcement of state laws--not just another layer of federal regulation.

There is demonstrably no need for the FDA to be further overburdened by being made responsible for tobacco.

BILL WORDHAM

Tobacco Institute, Washington

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