The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA power to control tobacco regulation, the New York Times reported.
The legislation has only small differences from a version the House passed in April by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. A White House spokesman, Reid H. Cherlin, said on Thursday President Obama, who was a co-sponsor of the bill when he was in the Senate, would sign the legislation when it reached his desk.
“This long-overdue grant of authority to FDA to regulate tobacco products means that the agency can finally take the actions needed to protect our people from the most deadly of all consumer products,” Edward M. Kennedy Massachusetts Democrat who was chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate said in a statement.
Under the act the FDA would be able to set standards for cigarettes, regulating chemicals in cigarette smoke and outlawing most tobacco flavorings. It could also study whether to also ban menthol. Flavorings are considered a lure to first-time smokers, especially the young. The law would also further restrict marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Colorful advertising and store displays would be replaced by black-and-white-only text as part of restrictions aimed at reducing the appeal to youth to try smoking. Cigarette makers will be required to stop using terms like “light” and “low tar” by next year and to place large and graphic health warnings on their packages by 2012, the New York Times reported.
Still, while the FDA could mandate a reduced level of nicotine, the law expressly says the agency cannot ban it. Public health advocates say outlawing nicotine would force addicts would turn to a black market or other sources.
Health advocates predict that FDA. product standards could eventually reduce some of the 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarette smoke, or make them taste so bad they deter users.
On Wednesday a procedural vote passed 67-30, cutting off amendments to the bill, and Thursday, the bill passed by a 79 to 17 vote.