Historic Tobacco-Related Legislation Passed

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The House of Representatives approved a bill that will give the government regulatory authority of over tobacco products as well as the marketing and sales of tobacco products.

The new law, which was authored in part by the nation’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris, will provide a number of regulatory powers to various governmental agencies. It will require stronger warning labels on tobacco products and prohibit the use of terminology that may imply a safer cigarette, such as the words “light” or “mild.” On the advertising front, it will eliminate cartoon-like advertising images, including the infamous Joe Camel, in an attempt to make the products less appealing to children.

Additionally, the law would prevent tobacco manufacturers from making flavored tobacco products. The FDA would be able to rush through the approval of products to help with nicotine addiction, and would also have authority to review the ingredients of all tobacco products.

The tobacco companies, which have been developing new smokeless tobacco products for years, are hoping to be able to garner FDA approval for this new wave of tobacco products. Currently, smokeless products may not be marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. Under the new law, however, the FDA can evaluate any new products, then decide whether or not they may present a lowered risk for smokers than cigarettes.

Critics of tobacco products and health advocates are praising the new measure for its enhanced responsibility towards children and young adults, and hoping that it will go far towards decreasing the number of tobacco-related deaths in this country, which top 440,000 annually, according to the American Cancer Society. Supporters of the bill are calling it “landmark” lawmaking and, in fact, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association were aligned with Philip Morris in pushing for passage of the measure.

Some critics say that this bill has too many loopholes, since the FDA will not have the ability to raise the legal age of tobacco sales, restrict locations of its sales, or enact removal of nicotine – the addictive component – altogether. Menthol, the most popular of tobacco flavorings, is not outlawed by the bill.

The bill was passed 307-97 on Friday. It passed a Senate vote by 79-17 the day before, and will now to go President Obama’s desk. Obama, who is himself a smoker, has promised to sign the measure into law.

 

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