Tobacco is unique. As many have pointed out, it's the only legal product that, when used as intended, kills its users.
It's unique in another respect. Paradoxically, it's been exempt from the Food and Drug Administration's oversight. The FDA has routinely regulated lipstick, dog food, bottled water, prescription drugs, Cheerios, mascara and other innocuous and outright wholesome items.
Yet it's been explicitly forbidden from regulating tobacco, which kills an estimated 400,000 American every year – nearly as many as were killed by the entire Second World War.
That's about to change. Congress on Friday gave final approval to a bill that will finally let the FDA restrict the contents and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The agency will be able to order the likes of Philip Morris and Lorillard to sharply cut nicotine levels, alter the stew of chemicals they add to cigarettes and reduce their addictive properties.
The measure doesn't stop there. It requires that health warnings cover at least half of tobacco packaging. It bans candied cigarettes, sweet-flavored lozenges and other tobacco products that attract the young. It bars the industry from posting billboards within 1,000 feet of schools. The general idea is to prevent Big Tobacco from snaring kids.
Any policy that does that effectively is to be applauded. Smoking has been described as a pediatric epidemic, for good reason.
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