The FDA last week offered for final review the latest version of the tobacco rules it first proposed a year ago to the White House's Office of Management & Budget. While that office has 90 days to review the rules, it's expected to clear the way for the rules to be formally announced in September, well in time for tobacco to re-emerge as a hot campaign issue.
SOME CHANGES FROM ORIGINAL
President Clinton has attacked Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole's remarks on tobacco and would likely try to use the tough new rules for political advantage.
The FDA last week said there had been some changes from the original proposed rules, but both tobacco foes and advertising groups said they didn't expect the changes to be drastic. They're already preparing for a court battle on the issue.
"A lot of work went into reviewing First Amendment issues before the FDA came down with its original rules," said Scott Ballin, an official of the anti-tobacco Coalition on Smoking or Health. "I don't think it will make a big difference."
A SWEEPING PROPOSAL
The original proposal took broad aim at tobacco marketing. FDA Commissioner David Kes-sler, saying he wanted to drast-ically reduce underage smoking, proposed the FDA regulate cig-arettes as a "drug-delivery device" and offered a number of sweeping regulations.
Images in most tobacco ads would be banned, with tobacco companies limited to b&w text-only advertising in magazines with a total circulation of more than 2 million or more than 15% readership by children under 18.
Tobacco outdoor boards would be banned within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, with imagery banned on advertising in other sites. Tobacco companies and advertising groups say the outdoor limits would have the result of virtually banning the boards in most cities.
Sporting event signage and giveaways would be drastically curtailed. Brand sponsorship of events would be barred, as would giveaways of branded shirts and other items.
Tobacco sponsors of racing teams would be barred from using brand colors and could only identify their sponsorship with b&w symbols on cars.
nFinally, tobacco companies would have to fund a $150 million annual anti-smoking ad effort.
John Kamp, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said he expected the FDA to take one look at the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in the 44 Liquormart case-and what the ruling said about upholding advertisers' First Amendment rights-and then recast its rules.
The FDA didn't. And now Mr. Kamp and other ad and media executives are bracing for a court battle on tobacco marketing.
Even before the FDA acted, U.S. Tobacco Co., the biggest marketer of chewing tobacco, used the GOP convention to attack the FDA. Ads in convention publications, created in-house, compared the FDA's regulation of tobacco with Prohibition.