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Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg's Gift to Big Tobacco
The House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana) that would immunize the tobacco industry against U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules stopping them from making cigarettes more addictive and marketing them to children. Among other things, Rehberg's amendment restricts FDA's authority to regulate the use of menthol in cigarettes. An FDA Scientific Advisory Committee concluded last March that menthol added to cigarettes makes them more attractive of children, increases the number of kids who start to smoke and reduces the number of smokers who can successfully quit. The Rehberg amendment also blocks FDA from regulating ammonia in cigarettes, which tobacco companies add to speed the the bodies' absorption of nicotine. Rehberg's amendment is aimed at weaking the landmark 2009 law giving FDA authority over tobacco products. Members of the Appropriations Committee who voted in favor of Rehberg's amendment together accepted $289,927 in tobacco industry campaign contributions in the last election cycle compared to just $10,000 taken by those who opposed the amendment -- a 20-fold difference.