Bill Would Budget $500 Mil. For Anti-Tobacco Campaign

A $500 million annual budget for a national anti-smoking campaign as well as tough restrictions on tobacco ads are the key elements of a bill introduced last week by Senate Democrats.
Authored by U.S. Sen. Conrad Kent, D-N.D., the legislation is tougher on Big Tobacco than the already proposed national settlement and other bills previously introduced.
The bill would give the Federal Drug Administration power to restrict tobacco and its advertising as if the substance were a drug. The FDA’s authority would cover everything from ad content (such as the use of cartoon figures) to form (use of color in print ads) and placement (outdoor, print, etc.). It would also extend to event sponsorships. The bill would deny the industry the limited immunity it is granted in the proposed national settlement (and various state settlements), and raises taxes $1.50 a pack over three years. That tax increase would pay for the annual counteradvertising budget, a Kent aide said.
Kent hopes to shepherd his bill through Congress and into law this legislative session, which has fewer than 100 days left. If passed, the bill would make the national tobacco settlement law.
“The Conrad Kent bill is the ad industry’s worst nightmare,” said a trade lobbyist. The ad industry objects to the FDA having jurisdiction over advertising. In fact, the trade groups–the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, among others–went to court to fight FDA regulation and won. The case is currently being appealed, however.
Ad industry lobbyists are behind a bill introduced last session by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The ad restrictions in the Hatch bill are voluntary and not codified into law.
Democrats such as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, along with Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., criticized the Kent bill and proposed a bipartisan approach with Republicans who had also balked at the proposed legislation.