New FDA Tobacco Unit Expects First Challenge

FDA Regulates Tobacco

Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, 57, is the new head of the Center for Tobacco Products.

The former chief of public health and environmental hazards at the Veterans Health Administration will oversee the newly created center, to be run under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

President Barack Obama signed the landmark legislation creating the oversight into law last June.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy and Congressman Henry Waxman and passed Congress with bipartisan majorities.

The creating of a separate department to regulate tobacco has been ten years in the making. The office will be able to oversee ingredients in tobacco products, including nicotine levels, and so-called reduced harm products that might encourage new smokers.

There will also be strict controls on advertising, prohibiting the use of the terms “mild” and “low tar”.

The new authority is welcomed by FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg. She says, “because smoking and chewing tobacco cause serious health issues, we view our new responsibilities as a logical extension of our public health mission,” she said.

One in five Americans uses tobacco, although it is one of the least-regulated consumer products.

A tobacco analyst at Morgan Stanley tells the New York Times the industry did not want a fervent antitobacco advocate to head the office.

Dr. Deyton’s background includes public health administration in the areas of HIV, infectious disease, and hepatitis C.

He did successfully reduce smoking by veterans enrolled in a cessation program from 33 to 22 percent over an eight year period.

First On The Agenda

In a few weeks, a lawsuit is expected to be filed by tobacco companies who want to challenge the constitutionality of restrictions on marketing tobacco products, reports the New York Times.

A lawsuit brought by the Association of National Advertisers is in the final stages of discussion. The restrictions require cigarettes to be advertised in black and white ads with text only, and bans most outdoor billboard advertising.

ANA says on its Web site that the restrictions would create potentially inconsistent advertising restrictions between states and localities.

“First Amendment experts from opposite ends of the political spectrum - from Judge Robert Bork to Laurence Tribe and the ACLU to the Washington Legal Foundation - have all argued that the provisions are unconstitutional restrictions on truthful, non-deceptive commercial speech. Additionally, the Supreme Court struck down a number of similar restrictions in its 2001 Lorillard v. Reilly decision.”

The new center plans to work with the CDC and National Institutes of Health to combat tobacco use.

According to estimates by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 673,051 kids became regular smokers in 2008, of which 224,350 of them will die prematurely from their addiction.

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