Senate opponents agree on tobacco

Both major U.S. Senate candidates say they oppose regulation of tobacco by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – though incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole goes further than challenger Kay Hagan.

Dole and Hagan argue that the FDA does not have the expertise or resources to regulate the tobacco industry, given the agency's focus on the safety of food and pharmaceuticals.

“The last thing on earth we need is to have tobacco added to that list,” said Dole, a Salisbury Republican. “They don't have expertise in tobacco, and heaven knows they don't have the funding to do what they're doing now.”

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, said much the same thing in an interview.

“I don't think FDA has the staff to do tobacco regulation at this point in time,” she said.

Asked whether she might support FDA regulation if the agency had more resources, Hagan declined to answer. “To me, that's hypothetical,” she said.

Dole, in a separate interview, said she is opposed generally.

“This is a back-door way of simply shutting down the industry entirely,” Dole said.

In July, the U.S. House voted 326-102 in favor of legislation that would for the first time put the FDA in charge of regulating cigarettes. The bill faces tough opposition in the Senate from tobacco-producing states such as North Carolina.

The bill's supporters say it provides the FDA with separate funding to oversee tobacco.