A new bill giving the federal government sweeping new powers to regulate tobacco passed the House in a 307-97 vote Friday, following a 79-17 Senate vote, the day prior.
The landmark legislation is designed to keep kids from starting the habit and help adults kick it.
For more than a decade, leaders of both parties have fought for the measure, battling strong opposition from the tobacco industry.
The U.S. Surgeon General first warned of lung cancer linked to cigarette smoking 45 years ago.
The legislation will give the FDA the authority to regulate the advertising, marketing and manufacturing of tobacco products.
For smokers, the cigarette packs will have larger and more strongly worded and graphic warning labels.
For the tobacco industry, it means new requirements to disclose the ingredients in cigarettes. There will also be strict controls on advertising, prohibiting use of the terms "mild" and "low tar."
New rules can be issued on nicotine content, flavorings and other product features.
Health advocates are pleased, saying regulators can now pinpoint the exact types of toxins involved in making and smoking cigarettes.
The new authority is welcomed by Margaret Hamburg, FDA Commissioner. She says, “because smoking and chewing tobacco cause serious health issues, we view our new responsibilities as a logical extension of our public health mission,” she said.
One in five Americans uses tobacco, although it is one of the least-regulated consumer products. In fact, cosmetics and pet food are more heavily controlled by the government.
Health advocates say FDA oversight is the best hope for reducing the 400,000 deaths in the United States each year associated with tobacco use. The legislation is supported by more than 1,000 public health groups and faith organizations.
According to estimates by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 673,051 kids became regular smokers in 2008. Of which 224,350 of them will die prematurely from their addiction.
Also read "Senate passes Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act giving FDA Regulatory Control of TobaccoIndustry," by InjuryBoard's Honolulu Partner, Wayne Parsons. #