Tobacco Industry: Legislation Not Perfect

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The U.S. Senate took on big tobacco on Thursday by passing legislation that will give the Federal Drug Administration power to regulate the industry. The Senate’s action was praised by anti-tobacco organizations, but not much response came from Phillip Morris.

While advocates from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids were making their rounds on the national media calling the new regulation “long-overdue” and applauding Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy for sponsoring the bill, the Altria Group, which owns cigarette giant Phillip Morris, came short of saying “no comment” on their press release.

“We think today’s vote by the U.S. Senate is an important step forward on this legislation,” the Altria Group’s press release said. “[We have] supported tough but reasonable federal regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration and we are glad to see the progress Congress has made toward that goal.”

The cigarette company didn’t hide their displeasure with the bill, however, saying that the “legislation is not perfect” due to the fact that under the FDA, warning labels will require large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs, something the cigarette lobby has fought for years.

“The lack of regulation has allowed tobacco companies to market their deadly and addictive products to children, deceive consumers about the harm their products cause and manipulate their products in ways that make them even more harmful and addictive. This legislation at long last will stop these harmful practices,” read Thursday’s statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If effectively implemented, it will significantly reduce the number of children who start to use tobacco, the number of adults who continue to use tobacco and the number of people who suffer and die as a result.”

The anti-tobacco groups across the country have been able to harness broad support from the general public for passing stronger regulations even in tobacco states like Virginia, where Phillip Morris is headquartered. A poll conducted in January showed that about 66 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats in that state said that regulating the tobacco industry was important. Such bipartisanship was reflected on Thursday’s Senate vote of 79-17.

Aside from bigger labels on cigarette packs, here is a list of what the legislation will also do:

-Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.

-Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.

-Ban misleading health claims such as “light” and “low-tar.”

-Strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products to ensure they are scientifically proven and do not discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.

-Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects.

-Empower the FDA to require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients or the reduction of nicotine levels.

-Fully fund the FDA’s new tobacco-related responsibilities with a user fee on tobacco companies so no resources are taken from the FDA’s current work.

dolores@mynewsjunkie.com

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