Senate Votes For Unprecedented Tobacco Controls
The US Senate Thursday overwhelmingly voted to give the government unprecedented powers over cigarette makers, overturning decades of resistance by the powerful tobacco industry.
The bill, adopted by 79 votes for and 17 against, will give the Food and Drug Administration curbs to control tobacco use among youngsters, regulate nicotine levels, bar added flavorings and require tough new warning labels.
The House of Representatives adopted a similar bill in April, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted the chamber might accept the Senate's version in order for it to be swiftly signed into law by President Barack Obama.
"I believe it will be possible for us to accept their bill and send it right on to the president," she said.
The main opponents of the draft legislation were the senators from the tobacco-producing state of North Carolina, Republican Senator Richard Burr and his Democratic counterpart Kay Hagan.
Obama hailed the passage of the bill, saying it would "make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco's harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children."
The bill, backed by health groups like the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, for the first time gives the FDA power to regulate tobacco products.
US officials say the legislation is needed because 400,000 Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses each year and more than 1,000 children start smoking each day.
"At any given moment, millions are struggling with their habit or worrying about loved ones who smoke," added Obama, who has admitted to being an occasional smoker.
"My administration is committed to protecting our children and reforming our health care system -- and moving forward with common-sense tobacco control measures is an integral part of that process. I look forward to signing this bill into law."