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Graham rebukes legislators after tobacco bill’s death

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The death of the McCain tobacco bill in the U.S. Senate Wednesday sent outrage rippling through much of the country Thursday and prompted a harsh rebuke from Utah Attorney General Jan Graham.

"Everything we dreamed of one year ago today has been shelved for the sake of dishonest politics," Graham said in a written statement.The bill failed even to get to a vote in the Senate after months of heated debate and was pulled from the floor Wednesday. Without commenting on the bill's particulars, Graham said the Senate's indecisiveness amounted to a surrender to political pressures and tobacco's aggressive advertising cam-paign.

"Congress just blew it," the statement said. "This fight is not about money, it is about marketing addictive tobacco products to our children. It must stop now; we can't waist another day."

Graham told the Deseret News Friday morning that the failure of the McCain bill was disturbing for a couple of reasons. First, she said it means that the chances for any anti-tobacco bill to pass have dimmed significantly. There may not be enough time for another bill - such as the one proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - to be considered this session.

"We are unhappy that a bill could not get through. Any bill. It's a disaster that they couldn't get enough votes to enact some kind of meaningful reform."

Though attorneys general across the country won't endorse one specific bill over another, Graham said she and her colleagues want something done, quickly.

"Let's pass something this year that's meaningful."

Not only does the demise of the McCain bill bode darkly for Congress' chance to pass legislation this session, but Graham said it also sends a discouraging message about lawmakers' commitment to take on big tobacco.

"It's a signal that nothing is going to happen, that politics is being played and nothing is being done."

Graham urged Congress to work swiftly to consider alternative legislation. She said she's encouraged that lawmakers are talking about Hatch's bill, now that McCain's is history.

"It looks like they're trying to provide an alternative. A good alternative."

In her statement Graham said effective legislation must include the following:

- Full FDA control of tobacco products.

- A comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, including marketing directed at children.

- Full reimbursement for Medicaid money spent to treat tobacco-induced illnesses.

- Severe penalties for past conduct by tobacco companies.