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Commentary: FDA oversight would drastically change tobacco industry

This editorial appeared in The Rock Hill Herald.

If Congress approves the regulation of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration, commerce in tobacco is certain to change drastically. In almost all respects, that should be a change for the better.

Tobacco plays a unique role in U.S. history. If scientists had recently developed tobacco in the lab, it certainly would have been added instantly to the list of illegal controlled substances, along with other dangerous drugs.

Tobacco became entrenched in the U.S. economy and in the culture long before researchers determined that it was dangerous and even longer before they found that it was highly addictive. By the time scientists established that tobacco was harmful, the idea of banning it or even placing it under government control was considered impossible.

But times change. We know considerably more about the effects tobacco has on the body and the harm it can cause – even in the form of secondhand smoke. Smoking bans in public places are commonly accepted in the name of protecting people from other people's smoke.

But placing tobacco under control of the FDA would take the regulation of smoking one big step further. Last week, the House passed a bill, 298–112, to give the FDA authority to regulate – but not ban – cigarettes and other tobacco products. The Senate could take up its version of the bill later this month, and supporters are confident they can overcome opposition from tobacco–state senators.

President George W. Bush had threatened to veto any such bill that crossed his desk. President Barack Obama, a smoker struggling to quit, has promised to sign it.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Rock Hill Herald.

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