Anti-smoking legislation loophole gives tobacco makers 21 months for new products

WASHINGTON A loophole in the new anti-smoking bill will provide tobacco companies a 21-month window to introduce products to the market prior to federal approval, reports for the weekend stated. Several advocates have complained that the window goes against the reasoning behind adopting the bill, which will for the first time allow federal public health authorities the power to regulate tobacco.

HR 1108, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in the House August 6 by a vote of 326 to 102, granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater authority over tobacco makers. However, some critics have said that the 21-month “escape clause” built into the bill will allow companies to push new tobacco products in the next year and three quarters, before the FDA is prepared to begin regulating.

According to the language of the bill, the loophole clause applies only to “substantially equivalent” [very similar] new products compared to items already on the market at the bill’s introduction in 2007.

According to industry professionals and HR 1108 critics, tobacco companies often launch different versions of nearly identical formula cigarettes while working to expand their market. Critics said that companies that are right now developing these new items would simple speed up their marketing to launch them between now and the 21-month deadline.

Others have said that they are simply thankful for a compromise between the major tobacco makers in the country and anti-smoking advocacy groups. A spokesman from U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris USA said that the bill speaks for itself and offered no other comment from the company.

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