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US backs 'historic' tobacco curbs

16th June 2009

New smoking legislation has passed in the US Senate.

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The bill aims to limit the level of nicotine in cigarettes as well as putting restrictions on tobacco advertising.
 
For decades, tobacco corporations in America have resisted this level of regulatory legislation.

Fully one fifth of all Americans smoke, and the addiction causes some 440,000 deaths yearly.

US President Barack Obama said that the passage of the bill would make history, and that scientists and medical experts would take sensible steps to reduce tobacco's harmful effects.

The Senate passed the bill by 79 votes to 17.

In addition to limiting the level of nicotine in cigarettes, the bill gives the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to limit the appeal of smoking among young people.

The bill will tighten the laws that restrict the sale of tobacco to minors, as well as limiting advertising for cigarettes in publications that minors usually read.

The bill also limits the use of flavoured tobbaco in cigarettes, and bans the use of the words “mild” and “light” in cigarette brand names.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said that every day, 3,500 American children will light up a cigarette for the first time, enough to fill 70 school buses.

Since the House of Representatives passed a similar piece of legislation in April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the bill may pass as soon as this Friday, following which it could be signed into law by President Obama.
 
Industry giants from tobacco-producing areas of the US have previously lobbied against stricter cigarette legislation.

However, the new bill has the support of Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in the US.

Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, said that the new legislation represents the strongest action Congress has ever taken to reduce tobacco use.
 
He said that, at any given moment, millions are struggling with their habit or worrying about loved ones who smoke.

President Obama has admitted that he still smokes cigarettes once in a while, though he has tried to stop.
 
He said that his administration is committed to protecting children and reforming the health care system, a process of which moving forward with common-sense tobacco control measures is an integral part.

 

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