Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning in strong support of H.R. 1256, which will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with authority to regulate tobacco products. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 307 to 97. It passed the Senate yesterday and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature into law. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“It's really a great day. It's momentous -- it's historic. We can't say that all the time about the legislation that we pass here, but it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of what is happening here today.
“Today, we have an opportunity to protect public health and prevent disease. And today, we have an opportunity to honor our responsibility to our children to protect them from the harm that can come to them from the use of tobacco.
“Madam Speaker, tobacco is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States - according to the Centers for Disease Control, it is responsible for about one in five, or 443,000, deaths annually.
“I want to acknowledge the great work of Chairman Waxman, Chairman Dingell, and Chairman Pallone. We passed this bill before Easter. Happily, yesterday, it passed the Senate, so that we can now pass the bill again and send it to the President's desk for his signature.
“There is so much support outside of the Congress as well. Thousands of organizations - everyone from the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the AARP, and the Presbyterian Church -- just to name a few. They believe that passing this bill will save lives.
“Today, Americans benefit from the oversight of the FDA on foods that we eat, and medicines we take. Yet, despite the fact that tobacco is one of the deadliest products in America, the FDA has had no authority to regulate it. This is just not right. And today, we can correct that wrong.
“Right now, tobacco is exempt from standards that apply to a can of soda or a box of pasta. Tobacco makers are exempt from the critical and basic consumer protections, such as ingredient disclosure, product testing, and restrictions -- and restrictions on marketing to children.
“This legislation grants the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. It also requires detailed disclosures of tobacco product ingredients and restricts tobacco marketing and sales to young people, among other things.
“And this legislation does all of this in a fiscally responsible way - funding the FDA tobacco activity through a user fee on tobacco manufacturers.
“Because of lost productivity and health care expenditures, cigarette smoking costs our nation more than $193 billion a year -- almost $200 billion a year. By reducing the number of smokers, not only will this legislation save lives and reduce chronic disease, it will also reduce health care costs.
“Today, approximately 3,500 young people will try a cigarette for the first time, and another 1,000 will become addicted and be new, regular, daily smokers. One-third of those children will eventually die prematurely because of smoking. We must do all that we can to prevent premature death from smoking. And today, we have that opportunity.
“Madam Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support the aptly named Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. I hope that the children of America will see a strong, bipartisan vote. This legislation deserves it. And then we can send it onto the President Obama to be signed into law, hopefully no later than next week.
“Today in passing this legislation -- enabling the FDA to regulate tobacco, we are taking a giant step toward making America healthier.
“Thank you all for your leadership.”