Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cigarette Firms Challenge FDA They Call Rules `Illegal Power Grab'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cigarette Firms Challenge FDA They Call Rules `Illegal Power Grab'

Article excerpt

The five largest tobacco companies accused the government Tuesday of an "illegal power grab" by trying to regulate cigarettes with rules that the companies say will cost $1 billion a year - paid mostly by retailers and advertising companies.

The cigarette makers submitted 2,000 pages of arguments - and 45,000 more pages of supporting research - to the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday, the deadline for public comment on the FDA's plan to curb teen-age smoking by restricting how tobacco is sold and advertised. The plan "strikes at many thousands of people in many thousands of businesses," said Philip Morris Vice President Steven Parrish. "Make no mistake: In this fight, we are not alone, and in this fight we are right."

But parents and children opposed to smoking were busy delivering last-minute pleas to the FDA too.

"We are amazed that people are so blind to see how easy it is for little kids to get cigarettes," said Morgan Lesko, 13, who has been buying cigarettes since the second grade as part of Maryland's efforts to expose illegal tobacco sales to minors.

And the attorneys general of 25 states said they can't keep teens from smoking without federal help. "Advertisements that encourage teen smoking undermine the laws and policies of our states," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wrote the FDA.

The FDA must consider and respond to each argument in devising its final tobacco rules. As of Friday, the FDA had received 570,000 letters. Most of them are form letters and aren't considered separate votes on the rules, so the agency listed 57,000 different comments to consider before it received Tuesday's mail.

"We will try and be as expeditious as possible," said spokesman Jim O'Hara. It typically takes about a year to finalize federal regulations.

The FDA could not say how many people supported or opposed the rules, but the White House on Tuesday played down the tobacco industry's submissions. …

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