New rules coming for the tobacco industry

    The FDA will regulate the cigarettes and other tobacco products.

    The Food and Drug Administration will become the chief regulator for the tobacco industry, under new legislation passed by Congress Friday. Local health policy experts say the law could change the look, packaging and contents of future tobacco products. (Photo Flickr/Axolot)

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    The law will likely lead to larger and more graphic labels to warn people about the dangers of smoking. Supporters say pictures of diseased lungs or cancer-ravaged gums will certainly draw attention and could prevent some people from taking up the habit.

    Andrew Strasser is a tobacco researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. He says the law will require tobacco makers to provide better scientific backing for their claims.

    Strasser: It allows the FDA to require changes to the tobacco products and how they are marketed, if it is based on protecting the public’s health.

    Strasser says many smokers believe light cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, but he says research shows that the nicotine exposures are equal.

    A spokesman for tobacco maker Altria says FDA oversight will give the industry better guidance as it develops new products.

    Anti-smoking advocates are cheering the legislations, and President Obama says he’ll sign the bill into law, but local tobacco control experts say the FDA may not have the resources or muscle to crack down on Big Tobacco.

    Jennifer Ibrahim is a researcher at Temple University.

    Ibrahim: There is not additional resources for this new Tobacco Control Center to regulate. It’s better than nothing but to say that it’s going to reduce tobacco smoking I think that’s very premature at this point.

    Nonetheless Jen Ebersole and others in the public health community say the bill is a huge victory. Ebersole is Pennsylvania advocacy director for the American Heart Association.

    She likes that tobacco makers will be required to turn over their research and reveal the ingredients in their products.

    Ebersole:Since the tobacco companies have not in the past been required to disclose the ingredients found in tobacco products. We really don’t know, every thing. We know there are already harmful products but there may be more.

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