Oregon’s Merkley Strengthens Tobacco Control Bill

(PORTLAND, Ore. ONS) – It’s being called the strongest anti-tobacco measure since the U.S. Surgeon General ruled more than 40 years ago that smoking causes lung cancer.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco. The House already passed a similar bill, and must now vote on the Senate’s changes.

Both Oregon Senators voted in favor of the bill, and Dana Kaye, executive director of the American Lung Association’s Oregon Chapter, says it doesn’t look like the strong tobacco lobby can stop the momentum at this point.

“As we’ve seen in the past, we don’t ever want to take the tobacco industry for granted. They always think they’re bigger than everybody else, but my opinion is that this bill has had such broad, bipartisan support that it’s a done deal.”

Rising health care costs made the difference this year, says Kaye, adding tobacco-related illnesses cost more than $2 billion a year in Oregon.

“That is nearly $600 per every household in Oregon. The thing that’s really important to consider is, it’s not just a cost to the folks that are smoking; it’s a cost to every Oregonian, across the board.”

One of the Senate additions to the bill is an amendment by Senator Jeff Merkley to include FDA oversight of the newest, dissolvable tobacco products packaged to look like mints or candy.