WARNING: Smoking Kills

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. Supporters say it could save lives and millions of dollars in health care costs. “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 on to our people, especially our kids. Our goal has got to be to come up with programs to make it as easy as possible for people to get off of their addiction,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee.

The bill is a major milestone in the campaign to stop smoking that supporters that began with  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 changes to nicotine yields and other chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products, although it could not ban nicotine. It would require tobacco companies to provide detailed lists of ingredients and any changes in those ingredients.

The bill would ban the use of expressions such as "light" and "mild" that might mislead people into thinking there was less health risk in the product.

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 that anti-smoking groups see as a way to entice young people into smoking; limit ads in publications with significant teen readership; and impose stronger warning labels on cigarette packages.

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