National Association of Attorneys General

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Law Allows Government to Regulate Tobacco Products

Blair Tinkle, General Counsel to the Association and Congressional Liaison

President Obama signed into law June 22 a bill authorizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the advertising and manufacturing of tobacco products. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.), passed in the Senate 79 to 17 on June 11. The following day the bill passed in the House with a 307 to 97 vote.

The act gives the FDA authority to reduce or eliminate harmful ingredients, additives and constituents contained in cigarettes and other tobacco products, including menthol. In addition, the new law also reinstates the FDA’s 1996 rule that banned outdoor advertising of tobacco within 100 feet of schools and playgrounds as well as all tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events. The bill also imposes limits on full-color advertising for cigarettes, limits vending machines to adult-only facilities and requires packages to carry larger warning labels. The regulatory enforcement action will be funded through user fees on tobacco product manufacturers.

The legislation was controversial to some who argued that allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco would imply that at some level it is a safe product, such as prescription drugs—a tacit implication that some in the health community refute. However, the new law, which requires changes in current and future tobacco products, was proposed as a public health measure and received the support of many groups in the public health community, as well as industry, including the Altria Group, parent company of Phillip Morris USA, one of the largest tobacco manufactures worldwide.

On Sept. 8, 2004, the National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter signed by 37 state Attorneys General in support of similar legislation giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. The letter also recommended that Congress pass legislation calling for the Tobacco Quota Buyout, which eliminated the Depression-era quota program of federal farm price support for tobacco, creating a more free market system. That legislation was eventually singed into law by President Bush.

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