Product Regulation

Until the summer of 2009, tobacco was the single most dangerous legal product in the U.S. that was not federally regulated.  For decades, the tobacco industry fought ferociously against all attempts at regulation, despite mountains of evidence that its products cause lung cancer, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease, cancers of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, cervix, kidney, lung, pancreas, and stomach, acute myeloid leukemia, and a host of other diseases.  Tobacco products remained largely exempt from regulation under the nation’s federal health and safety laws, including the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

One of the first formal tobacco regulations was the Federal Trade Commission’s requirement in 1965 that all cigarettes and tobacco advertisements carry warning labels. The FTC proposed these labels after the release of the landmark Surgeon General’s Report on the hazards of smoking.  Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, which required warning labels on cigarette packs but not on ads, and preempted the earlier rule. Over the years, the FTC passed other regulations requiring the disclosure of tobacco ingredients and stronger health warnings on cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco products.  These regulations were mainly to disclose information about the tobacco product – not regulate the product in any significant way. At the same time, the industry began to manufacture and market inviting new tobacco products, such as flavored cigarettes, light/low yield cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco – and ancient practices, such as smoking tobacco water pipes (hookahs) became trendy among the young.  The time was ripe for regulation.

On June 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comprehensive authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco products.  This new law represents the most sweeping action taken to date to reduce what remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.  

This section contains information on the new federal tobacco regulation and on several tobacco products that are candidates for regulation.


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Regulating Electronic Cigarettes and Similar Devices (2017)

2017 policy guide with options and pointers for communities and policymakers to consider when drafting or implementing laws or policies that regulate e-cigarettes and similar devices.