Congress gives final approval to tobacco regulation bill

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Friday approved the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [HR 1256 materials], which attempts to safeguard the public by granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] certain authority to regulate tobacco products, among other provisions. Passed by a vote of 307-97, the legislation will heighten warning-label requirements, prohibit marketing "light cigarettes" as a healthier alternative, and allow for the regulation of cigarette ingredients. Under the bill, the FDA will have the authority to regulate tobacco products but will not permit the agency to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses, or tobacco grower cooperatives. The bill was approved by the Senate [official website] on Thursday by a 79-17 vote. US Department of Health and Human Services [official website] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] addressed the importance of the bill [press release], calling it a "key part of our plans to cut health care costs and reduce the number of Americans who smoke." Following the passage of the bill, US President Barack Obama [official profile] expressed his approval of the measure:


This bill has obviously been a long time coming. We've known for years, even decades, about the harmful, addictive, and often deadly effects of tobacco products. Each year Americans pay nearly $100 billion in added health care costs due to smoking. Each day about a thousand young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers. 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. 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.

Obama additionally expressed his eagerness to sign the bill, thanking the members of the House and Senate for swiftly passing it in a bipartisan way.

The bill was initially passed [JURIST report] by the House in April before being amended. Last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] voted 38-12 to approve the bill [JURIST report]. At the time, supporters said the bill would help to inform the public of the risks of smoking and make cigarettes safer. Opponents criticized the legislation, saying it could give the public a false sense of security about smoking and that the FDA might not be able to handle the burden of regulation. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee [official website] approved a similar bill [JURIST report] in August 2007. Shortly before that, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan said that the FDA lacked the resources [JURIST report] to handle tobacco regulation. The FDA first began to regulate the tobacco industry in 1996, but in 2000 the Supreme Court ruled in FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. [opinion text] that Congress had not provided the FDA with the authority to regulate tobacco products.


 

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