June 12, 2009

President Obama Expected to Sign Bill Allowing FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products

On June 11, 2009, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved Senator Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which will put tobacco regulation authority in the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). President Obama has indicated he will sign the bill into law immediately when it hits his desk. When the bill is enacted into law, the FDA will have the power to oversee packaging, manufacturing, marketing of tobacco products (including sales of newly hailed "safer" tobacco products), as well as the authority to impose tough restrictions on tobacco product labels and descriptions. The FDA would also have the authority to regulate tar and nicotine levels and to prohibit tobacco companies from adding flavoring ingredients to make tobacco products more pleasant. However, the FDA would be prohibited from lowering the permissible amount of nicotine in cigarettes to zero or imposing broad restrictions outlawing entire categories of tobacco products.

According to Senator Kennedy, FDA regulation of tobacco products will clearly serve to accomplish the following: 

  • Reduce youth smoking by preventing tobacco advertising which targets children.
  • Help prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors.
  • Stop the tobacco industry from continuing to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking.
  • Help smokers overcome their addiction.
  • Make tobacco products less toxic and less addictive for those who continue to use them.
  • Prohibit unsubstantiated health claims about supposedly "reduced risk" products, and encourage the development of genuinely less harmful alternative products.

While some question whether the already-overextended FDA has the ability to devote sufficient resources to regulating tobacco, various health medical organizations and advocacy groups are celebrating this new legislation. Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Medical Association said that the legislation will create a healthier future for children since the tobacco industry had a "history of misleading consumers and manipulating children with false claims about its deadly products," and further stated, "Too many graveyards are marked by the consequences of the industry's actions." Other groups such as the American Lung Association caution that while the legislation is a victory, the war on tobacco is far from over. The CEO of the American Lung Association said, "As the FDA tobacco legislation continues its way to the president's desk for signature, we will also continue to work for higher tobacco taxes, smoke free laws, and funding of tobacco control and prevention programs at the state level to reduce tobacco use and save lives."

Click here to read more about the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act


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