- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Congressional Republican leaders said yesterday they are unlikely to give the Food and Drug Administration more power to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug.

"I think FDA has a very broad jurisdiction as it is, and I don't think they do a very good job of what they're supposed to be doing now without more requirements being dumped on them," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

"When you look at the delays and the long process in getting pharmaceuticals and medical procedures approved as it is, I think that they need to be doing a better job of what they already have to do," Mr. Lott said.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said, "My own view is I'm not anxious to extend the power and authority of the FDA."

Their comments came after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that only Congress could confer such authority on the agency.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the court, which ruled 5-4 that "Congress has clearly precluded the FDA from asserting jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products."

Some Democrats have said they will push legislation to regulate the use of tobacco.

"Action is essential, if we are serious about protecting children from the enormous health risks of smoking," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, said it is now the responsibility of Congress to pass new legislation expanding the agency's regulatory authority.

"In my view, the Supreme Court has thrown the ball back to the Congress. Now, Congress has the right, the ability and the responsibility to do something about this public health crisis," Mr. Lautenberg said.

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said he plans to introduce a bill giving the Health and Human Services Department secretary the authority to regulate the manufacture and distribution of tobacco products. It would establish an advisory committee to work with the FDA to develop tobacco regulations.

Two stock analysts predicted nothing would happen this year.

Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Bonnie Herzog said congressional action "could happen someday, but there's no appetite to do that in an election year."

Ethan Siegal, president of the Washington Exchange, which assesses policy trends for institutional investors, said it will happen far down the road, if ever. "It's just not on the radar screen."

The court decision also throws out an FDA rule requiring stores that sell cigarettes to require identification from anyone under age 27 trying to buy tobacco products.

A Philip Morris Co. executive said last month the company was willing to discuss some government regulation of the tobacco industry but that the company still opposed the FDA's effort to regulate tobacco as a drug.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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