Friday, April 3, 2009

House passes bill giving FDA power over tobacco ads, sales

House passes bill giving FDA power over tobacco ads, sales

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The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the advertising and sale of tobacco products in the United States.

The measure passed by a vote of 298-112. Only eight Democrats voted against the bill; a majority of Republicans opposed it.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which now moves to the Senate for further consideration, would allow the FDA to restrict the marketing of tobacco and ban candy-flavored cigarettes.

It would also allow the agency to regulate nicotine and other ingredient levels, as well as force greater disclosure of the contents of tobacco products.

Among other things, it would give the FDA the authority to require the posting of larger warning labels on cigarette cartons and other tobacco products. Tobacco companies could be barred from running ads implying, critics say, that "mild" or "low-tar" cigarettes are less harmful.

"This legislation is a major victory for those of us who prize the health of this nation over the profits of tobacco companies," J. Randall Curtis, the incoming head of the American Thoracic Society, said in a written statement.

"We applaud the House for passing the bill and hope that the Senate will move it through quickly so that President Obama can sign it into law as he has already indicated he would. Swift action could prevent tens of thousands of future deaths."

North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan have introduced separate legislation in the Senate that would create a new agency to oversee the tobacco industry. Critics say such an agency would do a less effective job regulating tobacco products.

"It's a legal product," Hagan said in a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer. "I don't want to do anything that would harm the industry in North Carolina."

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the state is the biggest tobacco producer in the nation.

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