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New Senate Bill Seeks to Put Tobacco Under FDA Control

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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has introduced new legislation that would put tobacco regulation in the purview of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would give the FDA control over all cigarette sales and advertising and would also place some significant restrictions on how the products are marketed.

Dr. Ron Davis, president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA), came out in full support of the measure. “The AMA urges Congress to protect the health of Americans, especially children, by passing this legislation, which would give the FDA needed regulatory authority over tobacco products,” Dr. Davis said in a statement. “Each day, approximately 4,000 kids will try a cigarette for the first time, and another 1,000 will become new, regular, daily smokers. One-third of these kids will eventually die prematurely as a result. To discourage youth from taking up smoking, some of the provisions in the bill would stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children; restrict tobacco marketing, especially to children; ban fruit and candy flavorings in cigarettes; and require more informative health warnings.”

In addition, the FDA might be able to put a limit on acceptable nicotine levels. “If Congress fails to act and smoking continues at its current rate, more than 6 million of today’s children will ultimately die from tobacco-induced disease,” said Sen. Kennedy. In 2004, the Senate passed similar legislation, but that bill did not make it through the Republican-controlled House. In the late 1990s, the FDA decided to try to assume regulatory control of the tobacco industry, but the Supreme Court rejected that notion in 2000, saying that Congress did not allow for FDA oversight.

“Patients suffer from many chronic and fatal diseases related to tobacco use such as cancer, heart disease, and emphysema,” added Dr. Davis of the AMA. “Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, killing roughly 1,200 Americans every day–many more than those who die from drugs, motor-vehicle crashes, fires, AIDS, homicides, and suicides combined. Given what we know about the health effects of smoking and the powerful addictive properties of nicotine, it is unconscionable that tobacco products are currently one of the least regulated products in our society.”

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