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FDA announces final rule restricting tobacco sales and promotion to youth

[JURIST] The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] on Thursday announced [press release] a final rule [text] restricting tobacco sales and promotions directed at youth. The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents are a set of broad regulations "designed to significantly curb access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in the United States." In order to do so, the FDA said that this rule:

prohibits the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to people younger than 18, prohibits the sale of cigarette packages with less than 20 cigarettes, prohibits distribution of free samples of cigarettes, restricts distribution of free samples of smokeless tobacco, and prohibits tobacco brand name sponsorship of any athletic, musical or other social or cultural events.

The FDA first began to regulate the tobacco industry in 1996, but,, in 2000 the US 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. The new rule, which comes 15 years after the FDA first proposed banning the sale and marketing of tobacco to youth, will go into effect June 22 as law.

In August, several tobacco companies filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [text, PDF] on First Amendment grounds. In June, President Obama signed the act into law, just two weeks after it was approved by Congress [JURIST reports]. The law attempts to safeguard the public by granting the FDA certain authority to regulate tobacco products, among other provisions. Last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] voted 38-12 to approve the bill [JURIST report]. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee [official website] approved a similar bill [JURIST report] in August 2007. Shortly before that, the former FDA commissioner said that the FDA lacked the resources [JURIST report] to handle tobacco regulation.

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