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Government Passes Tobacco Marketing Regulations
Volume 618
June 16, 2009

Barring an eleventh hour surprise, President Obama is expected to sign ground-breaking legislation that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad regulatory powers over the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. If it becomes law, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would greatly restrict tobacco companies from advertising to children and teenagers. "It is a life-saving act for the millions of Americans, especially the young, who will be spared a lifetime of addiction and premature death," said Senator Ted Kennedy, the main sponsor of the legislation, in a statement.

Last week, Congress passed the bill with strong support, despite continuing lobbying efforts from a segment of the tobacco industry. In a controversial inclusion, the legislation targets both cigarettes and increasingly popular smokeless tobacco products. One of the chief opponents of the bill, Senator Richard Burr of tobacco-rich North Carolina, argues the legislation is counter-productive. "If the goal is to reduce mortality rates, then it makes no sense to keep higher-risk products, like cigarettes, on store shelves at the expense of offering lower-risk alternatives to consumers," Burr said, in a statement.

Specifically, the act prohibits the outdoor marketing of tobacco products near schools, bans tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events and limits the scope of tobacco-related advertising in stores and in certain publications. In addition, companies will no longer be allowed to offer free giveaways of non-tobacco products (ie, any gift-with-purchase promotion) with the purchase of a tobacco product. Because the bill so clearly restricts advertising, it is expected that marketing associations and possibly tobacco companies will challenge the legitimacy of the pending law on First Amendment grounds. A similar Massachusetts tobacco advertising ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001, which ruled the law was too broad.

Obama has said he hopes to sign the bill into law soon, although no date has been set. The advertising and marketing restrictions would go into effect one year after the bill becomes law.


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