House gives final congressional approval to FDA regulation of tobacco

McClatchy NewspapersJune 12, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- As expected, the House of Representatives on Friday strongly endorsed new, extensive legislation to regulate tobacco.

The 307-97 House vote to back a Senate version of the bill seals a legislative battle that has stretched over a decade.

The Food and Drug Administration will begin regulating tobacco products with sweeping new powers that will affect everything from cigarette content to marketing. President Barack Obama is expected to move quickly to sign it into law.

“I look forward to signing it,” Obama said right after the vote.

"For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is," said the president, who still struggles to quit his own cigarette habit. "And, after a decade of opposition, all of us are finally about to achieve the victory with this bill, a bill that truly defines change in Washington."

Under the bill, the addictive chemical of nicotine could be drastically reduced, though not eliminated. The FDA could alter other chemical content, potentially changing both the taste and potentially the health impacts of tobacco.

Warnings would cover at least half of tobacco packages. Advertising would be restricted to black-and-white. No tobacco product could be marketed as "reduced risk" without extensive scientific backup.

Candy-like tobacco lozenges and sweet-flavored products would be pulled off the market.

Health advocates overwhelmingly endorsed the legislation, saying it will save thousands of deaths from smoking-related diseases.

The Senate passed the legislation 79-17 on Thursday. The House previously passed a similar version in April on a 298-112 vote.

Much of the opposition came from tobacco states.

"It is my belief that allowing FDA to regulate tobacco in any capacity would inevitably lead to FDA regulating the family farm," said Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican from Greensboro, N.C., home of No. 3 tobacco company Lorillard, the maker of Newports.

"This could create uncertainty for family farmers at a time when they are already struggling during the economic downturn."

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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