Release: Senate Votes for FDA Rules on Tobacco

WASHINGTON, June 11 – The Senate voted Thursday for legislation that for the first time would give the government control over the production and marketing of tobacco products.

Under the measure that was approved 79 to 17, the Food and Drug Administration would be given authority to regulate how cigarettes and other tobacco products are made and sold to some 40 million smokers.

“This bill is a very good step forward. Our goal has got to be for these companies to stop pushing their dangerous and addictive product onto our people, especially our kids,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate health committee which crafted the bill.

Sanders said the measure would regulate advertising and marketing tactics that tobacco companies have used to lure children. Calling it “a disgrace and an outrage,” he blamed cigarette companies for using candy flavorings and cartoon characters to appeal to children.

In Vermont, one in every six high school students smokes cigarettes. Nationally, Sanders added, one in every five high school students is a smoker. He called the figures “appalling.”

The bill is a major milestone in the campaign to stop smoking that began with the 1964 surgeon general's warning that smoking causes lung cancer and includes a 1998 lawsuit settlement in which tobacco companies pledged $206 billion to help fund anti-tobacco campaigns.

The bill would allow the FDA to require manufacturers to regulate nicotine yields and other chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products. It would require tobacco companies to provide detailed lists of ingredients and any changes in those ingredients. It would ban the use of expressions such as "light" and "mild" that might mislead people into thinking there was less of a health risk.

The FDA also would have the power to restrict tobacco marketing, require pre-market approval of all new tobacco products, ban candied or flavored tobacco products, and limit ads in publications geared to teenagers.

To watch the senator’s speech on the tobacco bill, click here.