Tobacco Ruled a Drug

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GREENSBORO, North Carolina: Anti-smoking activists were ecstatic. President Clinton lauded "a historic landmark day for the nation's health," adding: "With this ruling, we can regulate tobacco products and protect our children from a lifetime of addiction." In North Carolina, federal judge William Osteen had ruled that the government can regulate tobacco as a drug. "The companies fear that the FDA may now really put the screws on by limiting the amount of nicotine in cigarettes,” says TIME's Bruce Van Voorst. “Even more shattering, the government may declare nicotine a drug that would require a doctor's prescription and would have to be bought at a pharmacy." While Judge Osteen ruled that the FDA lacks the authority to restrict cigarette advertising, his 65-page decision came as a huge blow to the tobacco industry. The case will be appealed and most likely will wind up in the Supreme Court. For now, the news sent tobacco stocks tumbling by more than $2 per share for both RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris. Investors are betting that tobacco can't beat the FDA.