This afternoon, President Barack Obama will sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which among many good things noted after the jump, will allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarettes. It’s a particularly important day for the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Henry Waxman, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which, however logically, has jurisdiction over health issues. This weekend I read Waxman’s forthcoming legislative memoir (a burgeoning and exciting genre), written with the assistance of Atlantic reporter Joshua Green, The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works. It’s a very useful primer on Congress and the long battles Waxman has led on behalf of a variety of key progressive causes. You also learn, strangely enough, that Waxman was one of the first Members of Congress to undertake the now common practice of donating to his colleagues’ campaign funds in an effort to keep around representatives he saw as effective and curry favor. For all Waxman’s idealism, you can’t say he isn’t savvy.
Waxman began his attempts to regulate tobacco in the early 1980s, with oversight hearings featuring Captain Kangaroo, and continued his work through then-Representative Dick Durbin’s controversial 1987 amendment to ban smoking on airplane flights shorter than two hours, Waxman’s own groundbreaking 1994 hearings where tobacco executives lied under oath, Newt Gingrich’s torpedoing of a 1998 tobacco regulation compromise, and finally President Bush’s threat to veto this bill last July that left it hanging…until today.
It says something about Waxman’s tenacity and how political change comes about in the face of entrenched interests that it has taken nearly thirty years to achieve federal regulation of something most people will concede is a drug. Harold Meyerson has written eloquently about Waxman’s work in the past, and you really have to concede that in terms of sheer legislation, if with Waxman’s help we see successful health care reform and/or a Cap-and-Trade bill, he could very well be the the single greatest liberal legislator of the last half century — especially when you consider the Clean Air Act, the earliest HIV/AIDs legislation, Tobacco regulation, nutrition labeling, not even to mention protecting medicare throughout the Reagan and Bush years and his exemplary oversight work when the Democrats took back the congressional majority in 2006. Who else would you nominate?
— Tim Fernholz
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009
* New Center for Tobacco Products: FDA will create a new Center for Tobacco Products to oversee the science-based regulation of tobacco products in the United States.
* Banning Candy-Flavored Cigarettes: By October 2009, cigarettes will be prohibited from having candy, fruit, and spice flavors as their characterizing flavors.
* Full Disclosure of Ingredients and Additives: By January 2010, tobacco manufacturers and importers will submit information to FDA in their possession about ingredients and additives in tobacco products, a description of the nicotine content and delivery, and the health consequences of tobacco products.
* Stopping Youth-Focused Marketing: By April 2010, FDA will issue the agency’s 1996 regulation aimed at reducing young people’s access to tobacco products and curbing the appeal of tobacco to the young. When the regulation becomes effective, a number of measures will take effect, including:
o Tobacco manufacturers may no longer sponsor sporting, athletic, and entertainment events using tobacco product brand names and logos;
o Tobacco manufacturers may no longer sell or give away clothing or other items which bear the brand name or logo of a tobacco product; and
o Tobacco manufacturers will no longer be able to distribute free samples of cigarettes, and free samples of smokeless tobacco will be allowed only in adult-only facilities.
* Prohibiting Other Marketing Measures Misleading Consumers: By July 2010, tobacco manufacturers may no longer use the terms “light,” “low,” and “mild” on tobacco products.
· * New Warning Labels: By July 2011, warning labels for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products will be revised and strengthened. Warnings will comprise the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of the package. FDA will issue regulations requiring graphics on labels depicting the health risks of smoking.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 also provides FDA with regulatory authority to regulate marketing and promotion of camel tobacco products and set performance standards for tobacco products to protect the public health.
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