The Senate voted today and the House is expected to vote tomorrow to pass The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a critical piece of legislation that will allow the FDA to regulate cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.
Currently, a full twenty percent of Americans smoke, and 400,000 die every year from diseases related to smoking.
The new legislation, which President Obama is expected to sign as soon as it reaches his desk (he co-sponsored the bill when he was in the Senate), will allow the FDA to regulate the chemicals in cigarette smoke, ban cigarette flavorings (which are said to entice children and teens into the deadly habit), and look into banning menthol (which has links to higher rates of lung cancer). There are about 60 cancer-causing chemicals and 4000 poisonous chemicals in cigarette smoke: these would all be reduced under the auspices of the FDA.
However, though the FDA may also be able to reduce the amount of addictive nicotine in cigarettes, this legislation expressly forbids the agency to ban it altogether. Researchers have suggested that doing so might force addicts to turn to the black market for their nic fixes.
The law would also further restrict marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Colorful advertising and store displays will be replaced by black-and-white-only text as part of restrictions aimed at reducing the appeal to youth to try smoking. Cigarette makers will be required to stop using terms like “light” and “low tar” by next year and to place large and graphic health warnings on their packages by 2012.
“This long-overdue grant of authority to F.D.A. to regulate tobacco products means that the agency can finally take the actions needed to protect our people from the most deadly of all consumer products,” Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who was chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, said in a statement from home, where he is receiving treatment for a brain tumor. –The New York Times
The wholly bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate by a 3:1 ratio; it has equally bipartisan support in the House.