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Tobacco Regulation Bill Heads to Obama

President Barack Obama on Friday hailed final congressional approval of federal tobacco regulation as a major step in protecting American consumers.

He said he was looking forward to signing the bill, which gives the federal Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate the manufacture, marketing and sale of tobacco products. A White House signing is likely next week.

"After a decade of opposition, all of us are finally about to achieve the victory with this bill, a bill that truly defines change in Washington," Obama said in remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Moments before, the House voted 307-97 to agree to the legislation passed by the Senate Thursday by a 79-17 margin.

"As a mother and a grandmother, what an important day this is for America's children," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in the floor debate. "It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of what's happening here today."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the author of the House version of the tobacco bill, recalled the decades of industry claims that smoking was not harmful, that nicotine was not addictive, and that the companies were not marketing to children.

"The FDA will help us succeed in ending this tobacco epidemic," Waxman said. "It took us a long time to get here, but we're here now."

Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., led the opposition, saying that Congress was taking a step that was sure to raise constitutional issues.

"The lawyers will make a run to the courts," he predicted.

The legislation also allows for no programs that would move smokers to so-called "reduced risk" tobacco products, Buyer said.

Under the bill, the FDA would require disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products, mandate larger and more graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, and restrict certain kinds of advertising.

The FDA would not have the authority to ban tobacco, nor would it be allowed to regulate growers in Kentucky and other tobacco-producing states.

Obama said Congress had acted to "protect our kids and improve our public health."

"Each year Americans pay nearly $100 billion in added health care costs due to smoking," said the president, who has admitted to trouble kicking his own habit. "Each day about a thousand young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers."

"Along with legislation to protect credit card owners from unfair rate hikes, homeowners from mortgage fraud and abuse, and taxpayers from wasteful defense spending, this kids tobacco bill would be the fourth piece of bipartisan legislation that I've signed into law over the last month that protects the American consumer, and changes the way Washington works and who Washington works for," Obama said.

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