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FDA Bans Tobacco Promotional Products
Volume 697
March 23, 2010

Tobacco companies will be barred from distributing branded merchandise under new provisions enacted by the Food and Drug Administration. The restrictions, which go into effect June 22, have already been in place for over a decade in all but four states as a result of a 1998 legal settlement (Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas had reached separate agreements). The new regulations enforced by the FDA expand the ban nationally and covers all tobacco companies and retailers. "The regulations being announced today are designed to prevent our children from becoming the next generation of Americans to die early from tobacco-related illnesses," said Howard K. Koh, U.S. assistant secretary of health.

The FDA also ushered in a number of additional advertising restrictions. Tobacco companies cannot provide free samples of cigarettes, cannot offer gifts or other items with purchase of tobacco products and cannot have brand name sponsorship of athletic or entertainment events. Audio ads must only use words with no music or sound effects; a print ad rule for tobacco companies, mandating that their ads must be in black-and-white in publications that are read by children under 18, is being challenged in court.

A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco says that most of the provisions announced have already been followed by tobacco companies. Violators may be subject to everything from warning letters to criminal prosecution. The FDA did not have authority to pass such provisions until Congress passed legislation last year, enabling the FDA to regulate tobacco for the first time.

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