The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that for the first time would subject the tobacco industry to regulation by federal health authorities charged with promoting public well-being.
Its backers call the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act "landmark" legislation. While the bill appears to have enough support to pass this year, it's unclear whether the Senate will have time to act, and the Bush administration is strongly opposed.
The 326-102 House vote signaled solid bipartisan support for the measure, with 96 Republicans breaking with President Bush to vote in favor of the bill. Both presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., back the legislation.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., worked for more than a decade to get the House to pass tobacco regulation.
"This is truly a historic day in the fight against tobacco," Waxman said. "But it took us far too long to get here."
The bill would further tighten restrictions on tobacco advertising and impose new federal penalties for selling to minors. But its most far-reaching provisions would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco, from cigarettes to new kinds of smokeless products.
While the agency could not outlaw tobacco or nicotine, it could demand the reduction or elimination of cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. The bill would prohibit candy flavored cigars and cigarettes, and would give the FDA authority to ban menthol - by far the most commonly added flavoring.
Opponents of the bill say having a public health agency regulate tobacco would send the wrong message. Besides, they argue that the agency is overwhelmed dealing with food and drug safety problems, and doesn't need complicated new responsibilities.
tobacco prices set to jump again! I gave up buying cigarrettes over a year ago and roll my own now with one of those machine thingys. Better tobacco, no chemicals and a whole bunch cheaper.