13 Jun 2009

Landmark US tobacco regulation bill passed

11:34 am on 13 June 2009

Legislation giving the US government broad regulatory power for the first time over cigarettes and other tobacco products has won final approval in Congress.

The US House of Representatives passed the legislation in a 307-97 vote, a day after it secured Senate approval.

The bill allows the US Food and Drug Administration to put stringent new limits on the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products but stops short of banning cigarettes or their addictive ingredient nicotine.

President Barack Obama said he would quickly sign the bill into law.

"This legislation ... will protect our kids and improve our public health," Mr Obama said. "So I look forward to signing it."

The vote marked the culmination of a quest by tobacco industry foes in Congress dating back more than a decade to put cigarettes under the control of the FDA.

Regulation of the tobacco industry until now has been cobbled together by states, court rulings and other US agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission.

For the first time, the FDA will monitor and inspect tobacco companies. Cigarette makers must pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fees, register with the agency, and provide a list of all the products they make.

The measure also calls for larger warnings on cigarette packages, restricts vending machine sales, bans most flavored products and further curbs print advertisements targeting children. The FDA also will have final say over new products and marketing claims such as "light" and "low tar."

Health advocates backed the plan, saying it would reduce smoking, prevent disease and lower soaring healthcare costs.