Expect to see cigarette packages with graphic images of lung tumors and mouth growths in the future.
For the first time, the U.S. is coming close to having the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco products.
In a 326 to 102 vote, a measure was approved by the House Wednesday. It would give the FDA authority over cigarette makers - including how they market to children, whether they disclose the ingredients of cigarettes, and where health warnings are displayed.
Fearing that the FDA is already overburdened, President Bush has promised a veto if the legislation is approved by the Senate by a less than veto-proof majority. Many Republicans joined the President in voting against the measure.
The Senate should take up the legislation this fall.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) who co-sponsored the bill (H.R. 1108) said that, "regulating tobacco is the single most important thing that we can do right now to protect the public health of all Americans, especially our children."
The goal will be to drive down the rate of smoking in this country and to discourage new smokers from starting, despite slick marketing and promises of “light”, flavored, or menthol cigarettes.
The FDA would not have the power to eliminate nicotine from tobacco products or ban cigarettes outright.
Money for FDA enforcement would come from a new fee paid by tobacco companies.
The bill would force manufacturers to make more prominent health warnings, including the images on cigarette packs. It would also require tobacco companies to disclose ingredients in their products, including ammonia and acetaldehyde, which work with nicotine to contribute to addiction.
The companies would have to disclose what they know and when they knew it about the biological effects of those additives.
The American Heart Association supports the measure.
Surprisingly, Philip Morris USA, the largest cigarette maker, split with other tobacco companies in endorsing the bill.
In a statement submitted to lawmakers last October , Mike Szymanczyk, Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris USA, says the company supports FDA authority.
“Our goal, which we believe would ultimately provide both societal and shareholder value, is to design the best products we can, and then, ideally under the full regulatory oversight of the FDA make them available to adult smokers who do not quit."
The company reasons that it will make cigarettes that reduce smokers’ exposure to harmful compounds, then communicate that information to smokers who will then switch to their brand.
"The administration supports efforts to encourage adults who smoke to choose to quit and to prevent children from ever using tobacco products," the White House said in a statement.
But "in seeking to limit the harm imposed by tobacco on the American public, the bill will unfortunately undermine one of the nation's premier public health and regulatory institutions and potentially lead the public to mistakenly conclude some tobacco products are safe," the statement goes on to say.
Philip Morris now has done an about face.
Philip Morris now says on its Web site: “ PM USA agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. Smokers are far more likely to develop serious diseases, like lung cancer, than non-smokers. There is no safe cigarette.” #