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Developing: Administration springs tobacco deeming regulations

Stunned public health advocates celebrated the arrival of final deeming regulations on Friday heralding the move as cementing the Obama administration’s legacy of health promotion by bringing additional tobacco products, including cigars, hookah and e-cigarettes, under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration.

Nearly 7 years have elapsed since the president signed a law making the regulatory change possible, and almost 2 years since the FDA first published the rule for comment. Public health advocates were spotted all over Washington D.C. toasting to the milestone with un-sweetened, non-alcoholic and low-calorie sparkling beverages.

Tobacco industry representatives were reportedly stunned by the timing: “We thought these rules were hopelessly mired in process,” said Big Tobacco lobbyist Wyatt Mayle. “We’re obviously disappointed that the administration seems to have kowtowed to public health activists and will now hold more tobacco products to the same standard as cigarettes. I guess it’s true what they say: they can’t all be homeruns.”

Public health advocates have criticized the administration for the time it has taken to finalize the regulations that will allow the FDA to create product standards as well as limits on marketing of tobacco products.

“Public health groups certainly have been vocal, determined and simply annoying in their push to finalize the regulations,” said Anita Doolay, Special Assistant for Timeliness at the Office of Management and Budget. “They kept nagging us and reminding us that Congress has 60 legislative days to nullify any new regulation, subject to presidential veto. Do they think the OMB doesn’t know we’re nearing the end of the president’s term, and if we wait much longer to finalize regulations Congress will be able to overturn the regulation after Obama leaves office?”

“These things take time,” Doolay added with a note of pique.

After all, the Surgeon General’s Office just released its initial report on the harm of smoking in 1964.”

FDA spokespeople declined to comment on the status of the regulatory change, noting that it was April Fool’s Day and they had work to do to #FinishIt.

Instead they pointed media to President Obama’s very real remarks delivered at the signing ceremony for the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act seven years ago, when the president noted that tobacco-related illness is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, even decades after the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office issued its first report on the dangers of tobacco.