Fed moves to restricting access and marketing of tobacco to teens

Washington - (NBC) - The federal government has announced a sweeping new crackdown on marketing cigarettes and other tobacco products to children.

The new rules outline exactly how manufacturers can and cannot sell or advertise.

Starting in June, tobacco companies will no longer be allowed to hand out free samples, sell small-sized packages, create colorful ads or sponsor sports, concerts and other events that attract children and teenagers.

"This standard will protect every child and every community across this country," said Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Health, Howard Koh.

The government reports nearly 4,000 children light up for the first time every day.

The new rules also prevent companies from putting cigarette vending machines anywhere children are allowed.

"Vending machines in areas that can't be monitored are pretty good targets," notes Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "You know, you can go in and if you've got the money, no vending machine asks you for an ID or how old you are."

Manufacturers say they'll comply, and still insist they don't target kids.

"That's the guiding principle of my company," says R.J. Reynolds' David Howard. "Youth should not use tobacco products. "We will take no action, directly or indirectly, to target youth, and we do not."

Meanwhile, anti-smoking advocates are urging the government to be on the lookout for new tactics.

"It's going to need to watch when the tobacco industry switches its marketing tools, whether its on the Internet or other places, so that we're one step ahead of them for the very first time," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The FDA will also team up with states to inspect retail stores and educate store owners about the new rules.

Companies that break the rules face court orders to stop sales, civil and even criminal penalties.

The new rules were first crafted 14 years ago, but were shot down by the Supreme Court.

They were given new life when President Obama signed the tobacco control act last summer.

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