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FDA Regulation of Tobacco Jumps Last Hurdle

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June 12, 2009

Legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products is on its way to becoming the law of the land.

After years of work on the part of the health care community, the bill passed in the Senate yesterday in a 79–17 vote, and legislators vowed to work quickly to resolve differences with the House version passed earlier this year and send the legislation on to President Obama for signing.

“We’ve been involved in supporting this legislation for at least the past five years,” says AARC Director of Government Affairs Cheryl West. “This is a great victory for all the AARC members who took the time to write their members of Congress and ask them to finally give the FDA purview over tobacco.”

According to Tobacco-Free Kids, who spearheaded the lobbying campaign, FDA regulation is coming not a moment too soon. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in America, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, another 1,200 lives are lost and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers.

“We want to thank all of the Senators and Representatives who voted to pass this historic legislation,” continues West. “FDA regulation of tobacco will pave the way for a healthier future not only for our children, but for everyone with the potential to be harmed by tobacco products.”

The legislation will:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Require large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as “light” and “low-tar.”
  • Strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products to ensure they are scientifically proven and do not discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects.
  • Empower the FDA to require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients or the reduction of nicotine levels.
  • Fully fund the FDA’s new tobacco-related responsibilities with a user fee on tobacco companies so no resources are taken from the FDA’s current work.