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With Obama's help, Congress pushes to regulate cigarettes

Associated Press / March 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - With support from a president who's been trying to kick the habit himself, lawmakers renewed their efforts yesterday to require government regulation of cigarettes.

President Obama has been an occasional smoker who acknowledged recently that quitting hasn't been easy. While in the Senate last year he cosponsored legislation that would have given the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, to reduce the harm from smoking.

The broadly popular legislation passed the House last summer but faced a veto threat from then-President George W. Bush and didn't get a vote in the Senate.

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, who's fought for years for government regulation of tobacco products, announced plans yesterday to reintroduce the legislation.

"Tobacco has never been, and should never be, a partisan issue," Waxman said.

After Congress's session was abbreviated yesterday due to snow, the actual bill reintroduction was delayed until today. Waxman planned to bring the bill to a vote tomorrow in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs, and said he was optimistic it would become law during this session of Congress.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who chairs the Senate's health committee, plans to reintroduce a Senate version of the bill in coming weeks.

While the legislation would not let the FDA outlaw tobacco or nicotine, the agency could demand the reduction or elimination of cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. The bill would prohibit candy-flavored cigars and cigarettes, and would give the FDA authority to ban menthol.

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