FDA Tobacco Chief Acknowledges Possibility of Less Risk

Zeller: Agency making progress on new-product application backlog, "very" close on menthol

Mitch Zeller

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- The head of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's tobacco control efforts said changes in the marketplace have forced the public health community to grapple with the idea that some products are less harmful than others, reported the Associated Press.

Mitch Zeller spoke Thursday at the Tobacco Merchants Association meeting in Williamsburg, Va. He became director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) in March.

Zeller said the agency is aware that certain products could reduce individual health risks. But he said the 2009 law giving the agency authority to regulate the industry requires that it measure health effects at a population level.

He also said the agency is making progress on its product application backlog, how it plans to address menthol cigarettes and its plans to regulate other tobacco products like cigars and electronic cigarettes.

At the meeting, Zeller pledged "efficient, effective and fair" regulation of tobacco products, said a report by The Richmond Times-Dispatch. "You all make a lawful product," he told attendees. "Our job is to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of the tobacco products that are within our jurisdiction."

Zeller promised that the agency will move quickly to take action on a backlog of about 3,500 applications that tobacco companies have submitted to the FDA for new products, said the report.

The agency also is "very close" in determining how it will regulate menthol flavored cigarettes and products such as cigars and pipe tobacco, he said.