The Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule today that broadly restricts the sale, distribution and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to children - but it's not exactly a novel undertaking.
The rule was first issued in 1996, but was struck down when the Supreme Court in 2000 held the FDA did not have the authority to regulate tobacco.
That changed on June 22, 2009, when President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. That law called for the FDA to reissue the rule.
Bans the sale of tobacco to people under 18.
Prohibits selling packs of cigarettes containing fewer than 20 cigarettes.
Forbids the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in vending machines except in very limited circumstances.
Prohibits free samples of cigarettes and limits distribution of smokeless tobacco products.
The rule also cracks down on tobacco marketing. It “prohibits tobacco brand name sponsorship of any athletic, musical, or other social or cultural event, or any team or entry in those events.”
Tobacco makers also can’t give gifts or other items in exchange for buying their products, and the sale or distribution of items, such as hats and tee shirts with tobacco brands or logos is banned. Also, audio ads for tobacco can only use words – no music or sound effects are allowed.
The rule goes into effect on June 22.
“Every day nearly 4,000 kids under 18 try their first cigarette and 1,000 kids under 18 become daily smokers. Many of these kids will become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks and will ultimately die too young. This is an avoidable personal tragedy for those kids and their families as well as a preventable public health disaster for our country,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in a statement. “Putting these restrictions in place is necessary to protect the health of those we care most about: our children.”
Public health organization Legacy applauded the rule. “As a sign of how far the country has come, this rule is only one part of the comprehensive regulatory approach established by the [family smoking prevention act] that now applies to tobacco,” said Legacy president Cheryl Healton in a statement. “We welcome today’s FDA action as an important, historic step.”