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New FDA rules restrict tobacco marketing to kids

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The FDA’s efforts come at a time when America is once again losing the battle to prevent kids from smoking. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.4 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 tried cigarettes for the first time, compared with 1.9 million in 2002 and 2.1 million in 2004.

For every 4,000 children who try a cigarette for the first time, 1,000 become daily smokers, Sebelius said. Surveys have found that 90 percent of smokers start smoking before age 18, the new national minimum age to buy cigarettes set by the new FDA rules, she added.

Public-health advocates call the new federal regulations an important first step, since it applies to all tobacco companies operating in all states.

“It expands significantly the existing restrictions,” says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Under the 2001 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with the states, tobacco companies had agreed to limit their marketing and advertising. However, there were still some gaps.

For example, they were allowed one major sponsorship such as U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co.'s support of professional rodeo (which ended in 2009). Under the new FDA rules, such sponsorship will be prohibited.

Previous rules being challenged

However, some previous efforts by the FDA to handcuff the industry are being challenged by the tobacco companies in court.

For example, the FDA has proposed restricting store ads, as well as advertisement that run in magazines with large youth readership, to black and white with no pictures. A federal judge in Kentucky, citing First Amendment issues, has ruled against the FDA, which is appealing the ruling.

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