Senate Advances Tobacco Legislation

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Congress is edging closer to putting tobacco products under the FDA's purview. The Senate has voted to move forward on the bill and could pass it by the end of the week. The House already has passed a similar measure allowing the FDA to regulate the content and marketing of tobacco products.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's business news starts with the big new tobacco bill moving forward.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Congress has been debating for a decade whether to put tobacco under the control of federal drug regulators. Yesterday, a bill to do just that passed a crucial hurdle in the Senate. Among other things, the legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order cigarette makers to take out certain hazardous ingredients. The FDA would also be able to restrict the marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, especially to young people. And it could force companies to print stronger warning labels. Most of the tobacco industry is against the legislation.

Here's NPR's David Welna on how the vote played out among senators.

DAVID WELNA: The House overwhelmingly approved the tobacco regulation bill. But its fate in the Senate had appeared uncertain. Majority Leader Harry Reid needed 60 votes last night to keep the bill from being blocked by a filibuster. And he described the choice his colleagues faced starkly.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): This vote is simple. It's between endangering our children's health and enriching the multibillion tobacco industry that poisons and preys upon them.

WELNA: But Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi urged colleagues not to cut off debate.

Senator MIKE ENZI (Republican, Wyoming): We won't have an opportunity to improve the bill and attack the roots of the problem, which is tobacco use.

WELNA: It fell to North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, a leading opponent of the tobacco regulation bill, to announce the outcome of the vote.

Senator KAY HAGAN (Democrat, North Carolina): On this vote, the yays are 61, the nays are 30.

WELNA: Which meant the bill now moves forward toward a vote on final passage that delighted its chief sponsor, Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): I'm very grateful to my colleagues on, literally, both sides here that made this possible. It's 10 years waiting to get to this bill that allows us to finally deal with the marketing of tobacco products to children. That's a significant victory for our country.

WELNA: That final vote could come as soon as later today.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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