President Barack Obama, a smoker who has had struggled to end his dependence on cigarettes, signed legislation today giving the Food and Drug Administration the long-sought authority to regulate tobacco.
Among the new legislation's goals is to allow the FDA to prevent the tobacco industry from trying to lure youngsters to cigarettes by banning products like cigarettes flavored with cinnamon and other masking agents meant to make them more palatable.
Obama focused much of his remarks on this aspect of the legislation. An excerpt:
"One out of every five children in our country are now current smokers by the time they leave high school. Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular daily smokers. And almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday.
I know. I was one of these teenagers so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you a long time. I also know that kids today just don't start smoking for no reason. They're aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They're exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting...
... Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, healthcare and consumer advocates, the decades long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious. Today, change has come to Washington.