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Obama Signs Anti-Smoking Law

U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law Monday sweeping new legislation regulating the nation's tobacco industry. The bill gives the federal government the ability to regulate the production and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Decades after the dangers of tobacco first became known, the strongest anti-smoking legislation in U.S. history has been signed into law by the president.

The measure does not criminalize tobacco or limit the availability of tobacco products to adults. But it will have a big impact on the way cigarettes are produced and sold - particularly to young people.

President Obama says protecting children is what the bill is all about.

"Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new, regular, daily smokers," he said. "And almost 90 percent of smokers began at or before their 18th birthday."

The president says he knows the problem too well.

"I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time," he said. "And I also know that kids today don't just start smoking for no reason. They're aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry."

For the first time, a government agency - the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA - will have the authority to regulate tobacco products.

Mr. Obama noted that under the new law, the FDA can ban certain additives in cigarettes and restrict the marketing techniques used by tobacco companies.

"It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors," he said. "It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell."

The president signed the legislation at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden surrounded by members of Congress and representatives of health advocacy groups - including three children from an organization called "The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids."