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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Senate Passes Tobacco Regulation Legislation

The Wall Street Journal on-line reports that the Senate passed the tobacco regulation legislation and states,

The Senate overwhelmingly passed historic legislation Thursday that puts the tobacco industry under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration.

Companies are weighing the impact of the bill, which they say also puts severe, perhaps unconstitutional, restrictions on advertising and packaging. Those limits, they worry, could undo business plans based on smokeless tobacco products, which they have been developing in anticipation of this day.

Former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, who spearheaded the original effort to treat the nicotine in tobacco as a drug, hailed the Senate vote of 79-17. "It's as strong a bill as we could have ever imagined," he said.

He said the industry fees mandated by the bill to pay for FDA regulation will enable the regulator to strictly enforce new rules, such as a ban on candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes. "With $600 [million] to $700 million from industry to support it, I think the administration can set it up."

Critics said the bill will establish a new federal bureaucracy and unfairly benefit Philip Morris USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc., which dominates U.S. cigarette sales. Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) said restrictions in the bill will hinder smaller companies from introducing new products.

In a statement, Altria praised the legislation overall, saying it will require all tobacco makers to operate "at the same high standards." The company said, however, that it has First Amendment concerns about some advertising curbs. Industry officials said lawsuits could tie the legislation down. . . .

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