Obama Signs Bill Regulating Tobacco
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama today signed legislation giving the federal government sweeping new power to regulate the manufacturing, advertising and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Obama signed the bill into law during a Rose Garden ceremony, where he hailed it as a landmark measure that would help rein in some of the health damage caused by smoking, which is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the United States each year. Additionally, one in five children in the country is estimated to smoke by the time they graduate from high school.
Obama invoked his own struggles with smoking as he pointed out that almost 90 percent of smokers begin the oft-deadly habit by the time they turn 18. "I know -- I was one of these teenagers," said Obama, who has frequently talked publicly about his struggle to kick smoking. "And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time."
The law will bring sterner warnings of the risks of smoking on cigarette packs, and possible changes to the formulations of cigarettes and cigars. The law also bans most cigarette flavorings and orders the FDA to study the issue of whether menthol should also be banned, on the theory that the flavorings mask the harsh taste of tobacco and make it easier for first-time smokers to get hooked.
The law will also require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as institute severe limitations on how they are advertised and promoted. The government could also issue new rules on nicotine content, flavorings, and other product features. The bill, however, stops short of allowing the FDA to prohibit tobacco or to eliminate nicotine, the addictive element.
The measure comes a half century after the surgeon general first warned of the health effects of tobacco. Congress has been battling for more than a decade over regulating tobacco, coming close several times but faltering in the face of opposition from the tobacco lobby, the White House, or procedural hang-ups. But over the years, changing attitudes toward smoking have helped transform the idea of regulation.
"The decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of smoking has emerged victorious," Obama said.
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