President Obama Signs Anti-Smoking Law

"This legislation provides a tremendous opportunity to finally hold tobacco companies accountable and restrict efforts to addict more children and adults," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a June 11 statement. "It has been a long and challenging process to move the bill through Congress but the determination of many concerned parents and supporters has never wavered."

Federal Tobacco Law Signals Changing Times

Twenty years ago, the Senate passed a measure -- by just one vote -- that banned smoking on airplanes. Today even tobacco-producing states have smoking bans in bars and restaurants.

But giving the FDA power to regulate tobacco is a huge move that's been in the works for a long time. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled the FDA could not regulate tobacco according to current law, and many lawmakers and anti-smoking groups have been trying to change the law since.

"Tobacco products are unlike any other products on the market in that they are unusually lethal, but yet not highly regulated," FDA Commissioner Margaret "Peggy" Hamburg told a Senate panel last month as lawmakers considered her nomination for the job.

"We have tried for 10 years and we have failed," Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said in a speech on the Senate floor earlier this month. "Think what kind of a difference we could have made. How many lives we would have saved if we passed this 10 years ago."

The measure cleared its final hurdles earlier this month on Capitol Hill when the House and the Senate finally passed the bill and sent it to the president to sign.

Obama quickly expressed his support for the measure -- marking a departure from President Bush, who had suggested he would veto legislation that gave the FDA authority over tobacco.

To fund the regulatory effort, the FDA will collect user fees from the tobacco industry.

Not surprisingly, much of the tobacco industry opposed the bill, but there were some major exceptions to that rule. The giant Altria, parent company of Philip Morris, took an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach and supported the measure, although some complained the company contributed to a watering down of the bill.

Altria called the measure "not perfect" in a June 11 statement after the Senate voted on the measure.

"We have expressed First Amendment reservations about certain provisions, including those that could restrict a manufacturer's ability to communicate truthful information to adult consumers about tobacco products," the statement said. "We also believe that the resolution of certain issues would best be handled by rulemaking processes that involve sound scientific data and public participation."

Still, the company added, "On balance, however, the legislation is an important step forward to achieve the goal we share with others to provide federal regulation of tobacco products."

The tobacco industry has already been readying itself for a tougher U.S. regulatory environment by expanding its overseas marketing and developing new smokeless products.

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf, Dean Norland and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.

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