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FDA to Regulate Tobacco Under Law Passed by Senate

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By David Goguen on June 11, 2009 9:00 PM

If the Health Agency Takes Up Smoking, It Could Be Bad News for Big Tobacco

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products -- including the power to regulate product ingredients, monitor sales, inspect tobacco industry facilities, restrict advertising, even control the "Surgeon General" warnings that come on every pack of cigarettes.

The Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act passed in the Senate Thursday, by a 79-17 vote. According to Reuters, supporters of the bill see it "as a way to rein in cigarette makers and reduce smoking, especially among teenagers and children."

The Los Angeles Times reports that, in addition to turning the tobacco regulation reins over to the FDA, the new law contains provisions aimed at preventing new smokers from taking up the habit: "the bill also imposes strict limits on full-color advertising for cigarettes, bans billboards close to schools and requires packages to carry larger warning labels."

There are slight differences between the Senate's bill and a version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in April. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence that the legislation will reach President Obama's desk sooner rather than later, saying "from what I have seen so far, I believe it will be possible for us to accept their bill and send it right on to the president," according to Reuters.

Speaking of the President (who has admitting to sneaking the occasional cigarette as recently as the 2008 Presidential campaign), on Thursday the White House issued a Statement from President Obama on the Senate's passage of the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act: "Once the legislation is returned to the House for final passage, [it] will make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco's harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children."