Saturday, June 13, 2009

Landmark tobacco regulation bill goes to Obama

Landmark tobacco regulation bill goes to Obama
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A landmark bill giving the U.S. government for the first time broad regulatory power over cigarettes and other tobacco products won final approval in Congress on Friday, and President Barack Obama said he would quickly sign it into law.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation in a 307-97 vote one day after it secured Senate approval. It marked the culmination of a quest by tobacco industry foes in Congress dating more than a decade to put cigarettes under the control of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The measure will allow the FDA to place stringent new limits on the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products. The bill stopped short of banning cigarettes or their addictive ingredient, nicotine.
Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans annually, according to federal health officials.
"This legislation ... will protect our kids and improve our public health," Obama, who has admitted to his own battles to quit smoking, said after the House vote. "So I look forward to signing it."
Under the plan, the FDA for the first time will monitor and inspect tobacco companies. Cigarette makers must pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fees, register with the agency, and provide a list of all the products they make.
The measure also calls for larger warnings on cigarette packages, restricts vending machine sales, bans most flavored products and further curbs print advertisements targeting children. The FDA also will have final say over new products and marketing claims such as "light" and "low tar."
Health advocates backed the plan, saying it would reduce smoking, prevent disease and lower soaring healthcare costs.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, whose helped lead the effort, said FDA oversight will rein in an industry known for aggressive marketing efforts.
"We are today at the last gasp of the tobacco industry's efforts to protect their profits at the expense of the health and lives of the American people and to get children to take up this habit," Waxman said.
With the exception of Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, the largest U.S. cigarette maker, tobacco companies opposed the plan, saying it would hamper their ability to bring new, safer products to market.
Regulation of the tobacco industry until now has been cobbled together by states, court rulings and other U.S. agencies such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Last month, a U.S. appeals court found that cigarette companies lied for decades about the dangers of smoking and ordered them to launch advertisements highlighting the risks.
Much of the authority would now be in the FDA's hands. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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