By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- As the first anniversary of the signing of the Tobacco Control Act approaches, several key provisions of the law that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products are set to take effect.
On June 22, new restrictions that include a ban on terms such as "light," "low" and "mild" in all advertising, packaging and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products will be enacted, John R. Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. In addition, packages and advertising of smokeless tobacco products will have new and larger warning labels. A similar rule for cigarettes will take effect in 18 months, Seffrin noted.
Also starting on June 22, tobacco companies will no longer be allowed to sponsor cultural and sporting events, distribute logo clothing, give away free samples or sell cigarettes in packages of less than 20 -- so called "kiddy packs."
At the same time, a nationwide law will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 18, Seffrin added, and selling tobacco products in vending machines will also be banned except in areas restricted to adults.
"The American Cancer Society, along with the broader public health community, fought the tobacco industry for more than a decade to get this historic legislation passed," Seffrin said Thursday.
Tobacco products still account for 20 percent of all deaths in the United States each year. Thirty percent of those deaths (440,000 people) are from cancer, Seffrin said.
"So if we get rid of tobacco, we drop cancer deaths in America by 30 percent," he said.
But the tobacco industry continually recruits new smokers, Seffrin added. Every day, 1,000 children become addicted to tobacco, and almost 4,000 children try their first cigarette, he noted.
This is clear evidence that the tobacco companies continue to target children, Seffrin noted. The industry spends $34 million every day to "addict new young smokers, and keep current smokers from quitting or to mislead the public about the harms of their products," he said.
Seffrin said the new law, which has already banned candy and fruit-flavored tobacco products, will go a long way to curbing these practices.
"Given its track record, the tobacco industry is unlikely to comply willingly and fully with the spirit of the law," Seffrin said. "Indeed, just two months after the law was signed several tobacco companies filed a lawsuit seeking to block several key provisions from taking effect."
There are three categories of restriction on tobacco companies that will become law on June 22, Gregg Haifley, tobacco control advocate and associate director for federal relations at the American Cancer Society, said during the teleconference.
"One category is an effort to get at stopping the deceitful practices of the industry. A second area is to give better information to consumers, and a third area is to address many of the strategies the industry uses to target youth," he said.
The American Heart Association (AHA) said in a statement that it "wholeheartedly supports the FDA's efforts to enforce the law and move swiftly to implement several critical provisions including those taking effect on Tuesday, June 22, the first anniversary of the law."
And, the AHA added, "these new rules will support the association's goals to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by the year 2020 and reduce heart disease and stroke death rates linked to tobacco use."
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for tobacco company Philip Morris U.S.A., a division of Altria, said that "it is important to keep in mind that we supported the legislation that gave the FDA this authority."
"For these specific provisions we are in compliance, and our factories have switched over to making compliant packages, and in many cases they are already on store shelves," Phelps added.
For more information on quitting smoking, visit the American Cancer Society.
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