Congratulations, FDA. You now have the dubious honor of regulating tobacco. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate gave its final stamp of approval to a bill that gives the agency power to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products; President Obama is expected to sign it posthaste. Soon and very soon, the FDA will get the chance to wrangle with Big Tobacco.
The agency won't be able to ban nicotine, and it can't get rid of menthol immediately, either. But it can take aim at the hundreds of chemicals and toxins in cigarettes. The bill also heavily restricts tobacco marketing--an aspect of the measure that is expected to be challenged in court. Industry fees will help fund FDA oversight.
There are plenty of ways to debate this measure: Will FDA regulation lead people to think that cigarettes aren't dangerous? Does Phillip Morris's support of the legislation indicate that tobacco companies will somehow be able to turn it to their advantage? Will an already-stretched FDA be able to handle yet another charge from Congress? We've offered a few links below. Let us know what you think.