MONDAY, June 22, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- President Barack Obama signed into law Monday the nation's toughest anti-smoking law that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unprecedented powers to regulate tobacco products.
Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA will be able to ban labels on cigarettes such as "low tar" and "light," outlaw candy flavorings, and order companies to reduce nicotine in tobacco products. The law also requires large graphic warnings on cartons of cigarettes, the Associated Press reported.
The FDA can now regulate what goes into tobacco products, make those ingredients public, and prohibit marketing campaigns, particularly those that target children.
"The decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of smoking has finally emerged victorious," Obama said during the signing ceremony at the White House.
Obama has often talked about his own struggles to quit smoking, and did so again Monday, while criticizing the tobacco industry for marketing its products to children and young adults, the AP reported.
"I know -- I was one of these teenagers," he said. "I know how difficult it is to break this habit."
After the House of Representative approved the bill earlier this month, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said the agency "welcomes the authority given to us by Congress to regulate tobacco products."
In a prepared statement, she added, "Because smoking and chewing tobacco cause serious public health problems, we view our new responsibilities as a logical extension of our public health mission to protect and to advance the health of Americans."
Numerous health agencies joined the chorus of approval after the Senate vote earlier this month; the law has been a decade in the making.
The legislation "will finally put an end to Big Tobacco's despicable marketing practices that are designed to addict children to its deadly products," said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
"Senate passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has the potential to reduce the scourge of tobacco products, which kill more than 400,000 Americans every year," he added.
Speaking for the American Heart Association, CEO Nancy Brown said, "The U.S. Senate has taken a bold and courageous step to ensure a healthier future for our children. The legislation will allow us to protect them from a dirty business that has infiltrated school grounds and homes for many generations."
"Too many graveyards are marked by the consequences of the industry's actions," she added. "With each puff of a cigarette, smokers increase their risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and Big Tobacco's irresponsible marketing campaigns have made it increasingly difficult to break the cycle of addiction and save lives."
The American Cancer Society offers a guide for quitting smoking.