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What's in a cigarette? FDA to study ingredients

RICHMOND, Va. - The Food and Drug Administration is working to lift the smokescreen clouding the ingredients used in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In June, tobacco companies must tell the FDA their formulas for the first time, just as drugmakers have for decades. Manufacturers also will have to turn over any studies they've done on the effects of the ingredients.

It's an early step for an agency just starting to flex muscles granted by a new law that took effect last June that gives it broad power to regulate tobacco far beyond the warnings now on packs, short of banning it outright.

Companies have long acknowledged using cocoa, coffee, menthol and other additives to make tobacco taste better. The new information will help the FDA determine which ingredients might also make tobacco more harmful or addictive. It will also use the data to develop standards for tobacco products and could ban some ingredients or combinations.

"Tobacco products today are really the only human-consumed product that we don't know what's in them," Lawrence R. Deyton, the director of the FDA's new Center for Tobacco Products and a physician, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

While the FDA must keep much of the data confidential under trade-secret laws, it will publish a list of harmful and potentially harmful ingredients by June 2011, by brand.

Some tobacco companies have voluntarily listed ingredients online in recent years but never with the specificity they must give the FDA, said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Cigarette makers say their products contain water, sugar and flavorings, along with chemicals to improve burn rate and taste. Studies suggest those chemicals also could make the body more easily absorb nicotine. - AP

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