This was a vote to have the House agree to the changes the Senate made to the version of H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, that had previously passed by the House. H.R. 1256, for the first time, put tobacco products under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It required the FDA to end the marketing and sales of tobacco products to children, to prevent manufacturers from using terms such as “light” in their description of cigarettes, and to force tobacco companies to remove “toxic” chemicals from cigarettes. It also imposed a new user fee on the cigarette industry to pay for the additional work that would be required of the FDA by these new responsibilities. Provisions were also included in the bill to provide equitable treatment to convenience stores, tobacco growers and small manufacturers.
Rep. Waxman (D-CA), who was leading the effort on behalf of H.R. 1256, noted that the legislation had the support of more than 1,000 medical, public health, faith and community groups ranging from the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics to AARP and the Southern Baptist Convention.
H.R.1245 had significant bipartisan support. However, some Members of the Republican minority had raised a concern that the measure did not include any specific provision to protect minors from tobacco use. They had cited a statement from The American Association of Public Health Physicians noting that the bill “in its current form would ensure current levels of tobacco-related deaths while doing nothing of significance to reduce the number of teens who would initiate tobacco use with no bill at all.” The Republicans had suggested that the states be required to use more of the funds from their previous large monetary settlement with the cigarette companies to combat underage smoking.
Rep. Buyer (R-IN), who was among the more active Republican opponents of H.R. 1256, noted that one of the results of the restrictions on cigarette manufacturers in the bill is that “we have locked down the marketplace. . . . And when you lock down the marketplace, (you) stifle innovation and (when) we do not have competition in that marketplace, we truly don't have the ability, then, for these (cigarette) companies to . . . make investments in a harm reduction strategy . . . .”
Buyer also cautioned that “if this bill becomes law, we've got some real challenges in front of us. One of them is how we do stand up this new mission within FDA, an agency that is already very stressed and under resourced . . . .” Buyer further claimed that, if the legislation is enacted, “the lawyers will make a run to the Federal courts, and the Supreme Court will be back sitting in judgment over the provisions on advertising restrictions, not only potential unconstitutional provisions on the First Amendment with regard to the regulation of commercial speech, but also in the Fifth Amendment with regard to whether it's a constitutional taking or not.”
Rep. Paul (R-TX) opposed the passage of H.R. 1256 because he claimed that individual decisions by consumers “can solve these problems a lot better than a bunch of politicians, bureaucrats and tobacco police . . . . “
The vote was 307-97. Two hundred thirty-seven Democrats and seventy Republicans voted “aye”. Ninety Republicans and seven Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House accepted the Senate version of the legislation and sent it to the president for his signature to have it enacted into law.