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Law regulating tobacco takes effect

WASHINGTON (BP)–Portions of landmark legislation regulating tobacco products took effect June 22, the first anniversary of President Obama signing it into law.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had implemented parts of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act during the last year, but some aspects of the law giving the agency authority to regulate tobacco products for the first time did not become effective until its initial anniversary. These newly implemented provisions included:

— Legal enforcement of FDA rules that restrict the sale and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to protect the health of children and young people;

— Prohibition on advertising and labeling of tobacco products with the descriptions “light,” “low” or “mild;”

— Display of larger health warnings in advertising for and packaging of smokeless tobacco products.

In the past year, the FDA had implemented portions of the law with a series of actions, including establishment of the Center for Tobacco Products to issue regulations implementing the law; enforcement of a ban on the manufacture and sale of candy-, fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes, and release of guidelines for the disclosure by manufacturers and importers of ingredients in their tobacco products.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) applauded the developments. ERLC President Richard Land served as one of the leaders of a religious coalition that backed the legislation for several years leading to its passage.

“We are very encouraged that the FDA has implemented these regulations,” said Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “Millions of people will be spared from the tragic consequences of tobacco’s deadly effects as a result. More people will live longer, healthier lives, and more children will have their mothers and fathers with them throughout their childhoods as a result. I am very pleased that Southern Baptists played a crucial role in making this possible.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has passed several tobacco-related resolutions dating to 1932. A 1984 resolution urged churches and other SBC entities to encourage Southern Baptists not to use tobacco. It also called on Southern Baptist farmers not to raise tobacco but to grow another crop when feasible. In 2005, the SBC adopted a resolution urging an increased effort to reduce smoking by teenagers.

The law — supported as a bill for years by health, education and religious organizations while being opposed by many groups affiliated with the tobacco industry — was designed to address the problems of under-age smoking and of the health consequences of using such products as cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Tobacco products are responsible for more than 440,000 deaths and about $193 billion in medical costs and lost productivity in the United States annually, according to the FDA. Each day, almost 4,000 children under the age of 18 try their first cigarette and about 1,000 minors become daily smokers, the FDA reported.

Congress passed the legislation by overwhelming margins last year. The roll-call votes in favor of the bill were 79-17 in the Senate and 307-97 in the House of Representatives.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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