A group of churches and faith-community leaders is pressing an Indiana lawmaker to support a bill that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, the Indianapolis Star reported Sept. 27.
Rep. Baron Hill (R-Ind.) represents a district with a number of tobacco producers, but the Hoosier Faith and Health Coalition, representing more than 600 religious congregations statewide, wants Hill to commit to supporting the FDA bill. Hill has not yet taken a position on the measure.
Hill sits on the key House Energy and Commerce committee, which will review the FDA bill. The United Methodist Church, a key member of the coalition, strongly backs the FDA bill; Hill is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Seymour, Ind.
The coalition recently released a poll that found that 71 percent of Hill's constituents back stronger regulation of the tobacco industry. “This is a political win as well as a health win and a faith win,” said coalition member Tim Filler. “We want him to be a champion for this.”
A spokesperson for Hill said the lawmaker wants to see the version of the FDA bill that emerges from a subcommittee before deciding whether to support it.
“All the [religious] denominations are looking at this as a health issue, which goes back to the roots in our own biblical faith that our bodies are the temple of God and that we need to take care of this temple as much as possible,” said coalition co-leader Rev. Dan Gangler of the United Methodist Church. “Abstinence from the use of tobacco products is one way of honoring our body.”