January 19, 2010 in Business

FDA targets tobacco

Agency’s new regulations require cigarette makers to disclose all ingredients
Michael Felberbaum Associated Press

China to broaden smoking restrictions

China is tightening smoking regulations to ban lighting up in any indoor public spaces in seven provincial capitals, the latest sign of rising health awareness in the world’s largest tobacco-consuming nation.

The success of the effort may provide the best indicator yet as to whether broad efforts to restrict tobacco use can overcome stiff resistance from retailers and some local governments, which profit significantly from tobacco taxes.

Smoking is a huge business in China: 2 trillion cigarettes are sold in the country every year. The country accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers, with about 60 percent of Chinese men and 3 percent of women indulging in the habit.

“Our aim is to make 100 percent of the environment in indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free in these seven cities,” Qu Yan, an official with the government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press on Monday.

Cities targeted include some of China’s biggest commercial centers – such as Tianjin on the northern coast and the megacity of Chongqing in the southwest – where smoking and breathing in secondhand smoke add to health threats from traffic, industrial waste, and polluted air and water.

RICHMOND, Va. – The Food and Drug Administration is working to lift the smokescreen clouding the ingredients used in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In June, tobacco companies must tell the FDA their formulas for the first time, just as drugmakers have for decades. Manufacturers also will have to turn over any studies they’ve done on the effects of the ingredients.

It’s an early step for an agency just starting to flex muscles granted by a law that took effect last June that gives it broad power to regulate tobacco far beyond the warnings now on packs, short of banning it outright.

Companies have long acknowledged using cocoa, coffee, menthol and other additives to make tobacco taste better. The new information will help the FDA determine which ingredients might also make tobacco more harmful or addictive. It will also use the data to develop standards for tobacco products and could ban some ingredients.

“Tobacco products today are really the only human-consumed product that we don’t know what’s in them,” Lawrence R. Deyton, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s new Center for Tobacco Products and a physician, told the Associated Press in a recent interview.

While the FDA must keep much of the data confidential under trade-secret laws, it will publish a list of harmful and potentially harmful ingredients by June 2011. Under the law, it must be listed by quantity in each brand.

Cigarette makers say their products include contain tobacco, water, sugar and flavorings, along with chemicals like diammonium phosphate, a chemical used to improve burn rate and taste, and ammonium hydroxide, used to improve the taste.

Scientific studies suggest those chemicals also could make the body more easily absorb nicotine, the active and addictive component of tobacco.

About 46 million people, or 20.6 percent of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, down from about 24 percent 10 years ago. It also estimates that about 443,000 people in the U.S. die each year from diseases linked to smoking.

The real test is whether the FDA acts on the information it receives, said David Sweanor, a Canadian law professor and tobacco expert. Canadian authorities are collecting similar data, but they haven’t taken much action based on it, which is critical, he said. The European Union also has similar submission requirements.

© Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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