Christine Stuart photo

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd joined health care advocates Thursday to celebrate the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The act was signed into law by President Obama last week.

The legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration more authority to regulate tobacco products. The new law is chiefly aimed at preventing youth smoking and reducing illnesses and death caused by tobacco.

“We are here to celebrate a tremendous victory,” Rabbi Richard Plavin, a former smoker, said.

Christine Stuart photo
Rabbi Richard Plavin, Dr. Kerri Wallace, and US Sen. Chris Dodd (Christine Stuart photo)

Rabbi Plavin introduced Dodd, who thanked the Connecticut Children’s Hospital for its efforts in raising awareness of tobacco’s harmful effects on children.

Dodd rattled off statistics about deaths and illnesses caused by tobacco products, including the fact that 90 percent of adult smokers begin as children. He also talked about his own difficulty quitting. He said the average smoker tries seven times to quit without success.

“This legislation not only gives the Food and Drug Administration the ability to regulate tobacco products, but it also deals with sales and marketing,” Dodd said. He added that there are “severe penalties” for breaking this law.

Dr. Kerri Wallace, attending physician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, spoke of the dangers for children exposed to second hand smoke. Such dangers include increased risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.

Dr. Pat Checko, chair of the MATCH Coalition, mentioned the fact that some tobacco companies have begun issuing pink colored cigarettes to attract young girls. The law, she said, will ban tobacco companies from using misleading language, such as “light,” to suggest their products are less dangerous.

“It’s a shame it took over 50 years to pass this legislation,” Dr. Checko said.

At the end of the conference, a group of kids from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids presented Dodd with an oversized card reading, “Thank you, Senator Dodd.”

With the Tobacco legislation behind him, Dodd said he’s now focusing on the health care reform. Read more about that here.