[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Monday signed into law the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act [HR 1256 text], which grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] certain authority to regulate tobacco products. In remarks [transcript] delivered before signing, Obama stressed the importance of the new legislation, which was passed in response to the 8 million tobacco-related illnesses in the US and the 400,000 deaths per year arising out of tobacco use. Obama also drew attention to the core purpose of the act, which is to mitigate tobacco-product exposure to children under the age of 18:
This legislation will not ban all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell. And it will allow the scientists at the FDA to take other common-sense steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
He also commended Congress for recognizing the seriousness of tobacco-related health problems and effectuating a public response. The president extended special thanks to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) [official websites] for their involvement in crafting the bill, calling it "a victory for bipartisanship."
The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the House of Representatives and the Senate [official websites] last week. The new legislation will heighten warning-label requirements, prohibit marketing "light cigarettes" as a healthier alternative, and allow for the regulation of cigarette ingredients. Under the bill, the FDA will have the authority to regulate tobacco products but will not permit the agency to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses, or tobacco grower cooperatives. Opponents criticized the legislation, saying it could give the public a false sense of security about smoking and that the FDA might not be able to handle the burden of regulation.