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Tobacco Control Bill Heads to White House as Health Groups Cheer

Legislation to let FDA regulate tobacco manufacturing and marketing called long overdue

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Legislation that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory control over tobacco products headed to the White House Friday for President Obama's signature, as health organizations across the country cheered.

The bill was sent on its way after the House of Representatives rapidly endorsed the Senate's version of the bill, which was passed late Thursday. Obama quickly praised the bill, the Associated Press reported, saying it "will make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps."

The bill authorizes the FDA to set levels for nicotine and other cigarette ingredients, requires tobacco makers to list the contents of their products, severely restricts advertising to a young audience, and gives the agency the authority to require stronger warnings on cigarette packaging.

After the House vote, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said the agency, "welcomes the authority given to us by Congress to regulate tobacco products."

In a prepared statement, she added, "Because smoking and chewing tobacco cause serious public health problems, we view our new responsibilities as a logical extension of our public health mission to protect and to advance the health of Americans."

Numerous health agencies joined the chorus after the Senate vote Thursday to applaud a measure that has been a decade in the making.

The legislation "will finally put an end to Big Tobacco's despicable marketing practices that are designed to addict children to its deadly products," said John R. Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

"Senate passage of the 'Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act' has the potential to reduce the scourge of tobacco products, which kill more than 400,000 Americans every year," he added.

Speaking for the American Heart Association, CEO Nancy Brown said, "The U.S. Senate has taken a bold and courageous step to ensure a healthier future for our children.…The legislation will allow us to protect them from a dirty business that has infiltrated school grounds and homes for many generations," she added. "Too many graveyards are marked by the consequences of the industry's actions. With each puff of a cigarette, smokers increase their risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and Big Tobacco's irresponsible marketing campaigns have made it increasingly difficult to break the cycle of addiction and save lives."

Dr. Douglas W. Blayney, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, stated, "Tobacco use is associated with increased risk for at least 15 types of cancer and is responsible for 30 percent of cancer deaths. Lung cancer has emerged from relative obscurity at the start of the 20th century to become the most common type of cancer today, with 87 percent of all cases attributable to smoking. To reverse this trend, the FDA must be able to step in and regulate these deadly products."

And Dr. Nancy Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, said, "Passage of this historic legislation by both the House and Senate is a victory for public health over Big Tobacco." She noted, "The actions resulting from this landmark legislation may make people think twice before picking up a cigarette. The sad truth is that tobacco-related deaths are the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S."

And the American Lung Association added this:

"Today marks an historic culmination of a more than 20-year journey to provide the [FDA] urgently needed regulatory control over the tobacco industry," said Paul G. Billings, vice president for policy and advocacy at the lung association. "This long-overdue legislation will protect kids and reduce the terrible human and financial burden caused by tobacco use in this country."

"While we celebrate this notable victory, we recognized that we have yet to win the war," added Charles D. Connor, the lung association's president and CEO. "As the FDA tobacco legislation continues its way to the President's desk for signature, we will also continue our work for higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and funding of tobacco control and prevention programs at the state level to reduce tobacco use and save lives."

Even Altria Group, parent company of Philip Morris USA, which is the nation's largest tobacco company, issued a support statement Thursday for the Senate bill, saying it approved "tough but reasonable federal regulation of tobacco products" by the FDA, according to AP.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide for quitting smoking.

--HealthDay Staff

SOURCES: June 12, 2009, statement, Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; June 11, 2009, statements, John R. Seffrin, CEO, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; Nancy Nielsen, president, American Medical Association; Douglas W. Blayney, M.D., president, American Society of Clinical Oncology; Paul G. Billings, vice president for policy and advocacy, American Lung Association; Charles D. Connor, president and CEO, American Lung Association; Associated Press

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