The US House Energy and Commerce Committee is meeting today to discuss placing tobacco under the control of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If approved, the bill would regulate how tobacco companies market cigarettes, mandate ingredient inclusion, place larger warning labels on packages and give the agency the authority to require cigarettes be free of harmful chemicals, among other things, reports the Washington Post.
The legislation also seeks to restrict fancy flavors like strawberry and clove designed to lure underage smokers. It would also prohibit them from using the terms low tar and light to describe their products, which suggests a health benefit that simply does not exist.
Tobacco companies were accused of using lower levels of menthol to hook young smokers who preferred a milder brand, while using higher levels of menthol was used to hook lifelong adult smokers.
And InjuryBoard recently wrote about Silk Cut launching a new line of super-slim cigarettes in packaging that resembles a perfume box in an attempt to attract women smokers.
Health groups and anti-tobacco lobbyists say the legislation is their best chance since the 1970s to convince Congress to regulate tobacco, which they claim is responsible for 1,200 U.S. deaths each day.
Some, however, contend the bill doesn’t go far enough and contains compromises resulting largely from years of negotiations between Philip Morris and the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“This is a gift to Philip Morris and a scam,” said Joel L. Nitzkin, chairman of the tobacco-control task force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians.
Nitzkin pointed to the grandfather clause of the bill which protects products already on the market while being stricter on new products.
According to estimates by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 253,128 kids became regular smokers in 2008 of which 84,376 of them will die prematurely from their addiction.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the US, claiming the lives of more than 400,000 people each year. About 90 percent of cigarette smokers become addicted before the age of 19 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. #