Friday, June 12, 2009

Senate Says No to Tobacco

Legislation passed by the Senate yesterday
will bring the tobacco industry under the
Food an Drug Administration’s oversight, allowing
the FDA to regulate the production, packaging and marketing of tobacco products.
The tobacco industry will be forced to disclose the ingredients in its products for the first time, and some of the chemicals used in cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco could be banned. Nicotine levels may be controlled, making tobacco products less addictive. Warning labels will increase in size and include graphic images of the health risks related to smoking. In order to curb the industry’s ability to attract younger smokers, flavors in cigarettes will be restricted and the use of cartoon characters that appeal to children will be banned.

The Senate’s bill, when passed into law, will overturn a 2000 case in which the Supreme Court decided that it was beyond the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco. The bill goes to the House for a vote early next week, and then to the president. Both have indicated their support for the bill, so it will almost certainly become a law.

Teaching Current Events with the Constitution

Ask students: Can the legislature pass a law that the Court has decided is unconstitutional? In the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision, the Supreme Court asserted its power of judicial review, a practice by which the court exercises a check on the other two branches of federal government by determining the constitutionality of laws that come into question. In Cooper v. Aaron (1958) the Supreme Court declared itself the final authority on interpreting the constitution and has reaffirmed that authority in cases since. Students should research other instances in which Supreme Court rulings have been overturned by the passage of new laws and explain how the system of checks and balances works between our three branches of government.

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