Obama: Tobacco bill 'defines change' in Washington - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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Obama: Tobacco bill 'defines change' in Washington

WASHINGTON. - President Barack Obama says a bill giving the government much greater power to regulate tobacco "truly defines change in Washington."

The president spoke in the Rose Garden just minutes after the House passed the bill overwhelmingly. The Senate approved the legislation on Thursday.

It gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate how cigarettes and other tobacco products are made, marketed and sold. It could curb the roughly 400,000 deaths a year attributed to smoking.

Obama said the bill overcame a decade of opposition. The president said the "harmful, addictive and often deadly" effects of tobacco have been known for decades.

The measure now set to become law means cigarette makers will face rules like never before.

There'll be no more smoking ads near schools, no more special tobacco flavorings, except for menthol, that critics say were aimed at hooking kids.

Cigarette makers won't be able to sponsor entertainment or sporting events. Warning labels have to get bigger. Supporters say people, especially kids, will be healthier.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said "this should have been done long ago... It means the next generation of kids are going to have a fighting chance against these tobacco companies."

President Obama has struggled with smoking.

He says he's eager to sign the bill and in Green Bay, talking health care reform, promoted new incentives to get people to quit.

President Obama said "so these employers, they'll say, you know what, we provide for your health insurance, but if you quit smoking, you will see money in your pockets in the form of lower premiums."

The new rules will be set by the FDA.

John Seffrin of the American Cancer Society said "the FDA is the only federal agency that is equipped to regulate a product such as tobacco."

The agency has faced criticism it's under funded but, under the measure, tobacco companies will have to register with it and pay millions of dollars in fees.

Tobacco companies were split on the bill. They were found in court last month to have lied about the dangers of smoking and many feared restrictions would go even further.

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