Congress Looks To Legislate A Safer - But Not Safe - Cigarette

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal agency charged with keeping food and drugs from harming people may soon be asked to take a consumer product that kills more than 400-thousand people a year and make it safer.

The product is the cigarette - generally acknowledged as anything but safe. Studies shows that smoking accounts for nearly one in five deaths in the United States.

Tobacco foes say that toll can be reduced, and they point to a bill widely expected to pass a key Senate committee Wednesday as the tool to make it happen.

The legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration the same authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products that the regulatory agency already has over countless other consumer products.

The bill would allow the F-D-A to regulate the levels of tar, nicotine and other harmful components of tobacco products. Cigarette smoke alone contains more than four-thousand chemicals, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer.

Philip Morris USA supports the bill. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and others oppose the legislation, saying its restrictions on advertising would help cement Philip Morris' number one market position.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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