President Obama this afternoon praised the final passage in Congress of legislation that gives the federal government broad power to regulate tobacco -- what supporters call a historic move to reduce deaths from smoking and to stop cigarette companies from luring young people as new customers.
Obama, who is trying to kick his own smoking habit, called the measure a bill that truly shows change in Washington and that is the product of more than a decade of hard work.
"This bill has obviously been a long time coming," he told reporters in the Rose Garden. "We've known for years, even decades, about the harmful, addictive, and often deadly effects of tobacco products. Each year Americans pay nearly $100 billion in added health care costs due to smoking. Each day about a thousand young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.
"For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children, and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is. And 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," he added.
"I'm proud that the House and the Senate have acted swiftly and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion to pass this legislation that will protect our kids and improve our public health. 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.
"So I look forward to signing it. I want to thank all the people in the House and the Senate for working so hard to pass this bill in a bipartisan way. And I want to give a special shout-out to my legislative director, Phil Schiliro. He and his team have just done an outstanding job. They've been working on this for a long time, even before they joined the administration. I'm really proud of them."
For all his talk of change, Obama did not mention one change he hasn't made -- quitting smoking himself.
Asked about that, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that stopping smoking is a lifelong battle.
"I would simply tell you I think struggling with a nicotine addiction is something that happens every day," Gibbs said.
The House voted to approve the version of the bill passed by the Senate on Thursday, ending a decade-long quest by smoking foes in Congress, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who battled tobacco companies and other opponents of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill gives the FDA authority to ban tobacco ingredients deemed dangerous to health and candied and flavored cigarettes popular among young people.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.