The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the production, sale, and advertising of tobacco products, including cigarettes.
The House gave its approval to the FDA's oversight of tobacco by a 298-112 vote. Reuters reports that the bill "would give the FDA a range of authorities over the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry," including the power to "restrict advertising to children, require larger package warnings and force companies to lower -- but not eliminate -- nicotine content."
Next up for the bill is a Senate vote, where a battle looms, according to the New York Times. And if the measure passes there, it will make it to President Obama's desk for signature or rejection.
Cigarettes have been the controversial focus of personal injury and product liability cases for decades. In a number of high-profile lawsuits, the family members of deceased smokers have sued tobacco companies for knowingly marketing deadly products, and some plaintiffs have claimed that tobacco companies defrauded them into thinking light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes.
Some tobacco litigation cases have led to huge damage awards over smokers' deaths. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by tobacco industry giant Philip Morris, which sought to overturn a $79.5 million punitive damages order awarded to the widow of an Oregon cigarette smoker.
Earlier this week, a federal tax increase on cigarettes took effect, raising the federal tax per pack from 39 cents to $1.01.