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Congress Passes Tobacco Crackdown

Bill Gives FDA Power Over Cigarettes, Ending Decade-Long Fight

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“I go to the core mission of the FDA, to approve the safety and efficacy of every product that they regulate. Can they do that with tobacco? No. Which means they’re going to turn their head on their core mission on one product, and that’s not going to spill over to the other products? Are the American people really ready to take that risk?” he said in an interview.

Public health, medical, and religious groups all came out strongly for the legislation.

Margaret A. Hamburg, the newly appointed FDA commissioner, issued a statement saying the agency “welcomes the authority” to regulate tobacco.

“We view our new responsibilities as a logical extension of our public health mission,” she said.

About 400,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are attributable to smoking, according to the CDC. About one-fifth of U.S. adults smoke. Though the number has dropped over the last several decades, public health experts have been troubled by a recent leveling-off in adult and youth smoking numbers.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chairman of the HELP Committee and a longtime advocate of tobacco control efforts, said in a statement: "Decades of irresponsible delay are finally over.  Today’s landmark vote will save millions of children from a lifetime of addiction and premature death.  Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that enactment of this legislation is the most important action Congress can take to reduce youth smoking.”

Kennedy did not vote on the measure Thursday because he is ill with a brain tumor and absent from the Senate.

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