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September 12, 2008

2008

September 12, 2008

FDA Tobacco Bill Awaits Senate Action

As Congress returns to session after the summer recess, ATS and the tobacco control community renew our efforts to force a Senate vote on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108/S. 625). This legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the production, content, labeling and marketing of tobacco products.

Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1108 by a veto proof majority. Attention now turns to the Senate, where supporters of the bill are trying to rally the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster of the legislation. Due to few legislative days left this session and the press of other major policy issues, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will not move forward on the FDA tobacco bill unless he is confident that the bill has the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.

Currently, 58 Senators have cosponsored the legislation. The ATS and our tobacco control partners are working hard to secure the needed 60 cosponsors. All ATS members are encouraged to contact their Senators and ask them to cosponsor the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108/S. 625). ATS members can contact their Senators through the ATS website at:
http://www.thoracic.org/sections/about-ats/advocacy/take-action-now.html

TOBACCO

ATS Comments on Cigarette Test Method

In related news, the ATS joined 20 other organizations in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission expressing concern with the test that tobacco companies use to measure the tar and nicotine content in cigarettes. The ATS noted that the tests currently used to measure tar and nicotine levels significantly under-estimate the tar and nicotine exposure of tobacco users, thus significantly under-stating the harm caused by tobacco use and provide no useful information about the relative risks among cigarettes with different tar and nicotine ratings. The letter cites studies by the National Cancer Institute that document the unsuitability of the tests used to measure tar and nicotine in cigarettes.

TUBERCULOSIS

Domestic TB Bill Moving Towards Senate Passage

The domestic tuberculosis bill, the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, sponsored by Sens. Brown (D-OH) and Hutchison (R-TX), is moving towards a Senate floor vote. The bill increases funding for CDC's Division of TB Elimination (DTBE), most of which goes to state TB control programs, and expands CDC and NIH research on TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. Sens. Brown and Hutchison are currently working with Sen. DeMint (R-SC) to address his questions over the bill's authorized funding level. Under the bill, funding for CDC's DTBE would go from $140 million in Fiscal Year 2008 to $300 million in FY2009. ATS SC members have been active over the past few weeks in contacting Sen. DeMint's office to educate him about TB, including research needs, and why more resources are needed for responding to MDR and XDR in the US. Once Sen. DeMint's concerns are addressed, the bill will be sent for an expedited Senate floor vote, expected later this month before the Senate adjourns for the Presidential election.

The legislation is also moving towards action in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Dingell (D-MI). It is expected that the committee will hold a vote on the bill within the next few weeks, paving the way for a House vote just before Congress adjourns.

ACTION: ATS members are asked to contact their two Senators and House Representative to request their support for Senate and House votes on the bill. Visit the ATS website to learn how to contact your members of Congress at http://www.thoracic.org/sections/about-ats/advocacy/take-action-now.html

BUDGET

Congress to Consider Additional NIH Funding

The Congress is set to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund all federal agencies and services for Fiscal Year 2009 before the end of this month, however, it is now unclear when the CR will extend to. House and Senate leaders had planned to pass a CR that would extend into 2009 thereby delaying action on annual spending bills until after the Presidential election, but this week the White House began making its dissatisfaction with this plan known to congressional leaders, which means there is a possibility that the President would veto the measure. Instead, the Congress may now pass a shorter CR and return to Washington for a lame duck session following the election to pass the spending bills. The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Byrd (D-WV), has also proposed a second supplemental Appropriations bill that would provide an additional $500 million in funding for the NIH for FY08. This week, the ATS joined a Ad-Hoc Group for Medical Research letter to the House and Senate leadership urging the Congress to provide $30.3 billion for NIH in the final FY09 Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations bill and the inclusion of the $500 supplemental appropriation for NIH.


Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator