Congress Clears Tobacco Bill For President's Signature

The House of Representatives today voted by a 3-to-1 margin to pass a bill approved by the Senate yesterday. The measure gives the federal government sweeping new powers to regulate tobacco, reports the Washington Post. "President Obama hailed the bipartisan votes in Congress on the bill, which he said 'truly defines change in Washington.' He said he looks forward to signing it into law."

"The legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the advertising, marketing and manufacturing of tobacco products. It comes 50 years after the surgeon general first warned about the health effects of tobacco" (Layton, 6/12).

Business Week reports on a specific element of the Food and Drug Adminstration's looming oversight that is causing the tobacco industry concern. It reports that "though one big cigarette maker, Altria, supported the move generally, new rules on warning labels on packs aren't sitting so well. The bill... will put a new clamp on many elements of the business, from regulating health claims to empowering the FDA to require changes in ingredients if they deem them necessary. But one of the more contentious parts of the new law may be its provision for starker warning labels." The final version of the legislation mandates changes in the cigarette package labeling. "David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria’s Philip Morris USA business, argues labeling would be better handled by a regulator than through legislation. A regulator could study the issue scientifically and render a decision on that basis, says Sylvia. As things stand 'we don’t know if it's more effective communication or not,'" he says (Byrnes, 6/12).

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