Mitch Zeller was appointed as director of the CTP in March 2013 after more than 30 years of working on FDA-related issues.
A graduate of Dartmouth College and the American University Washington College of Law, Zeller began as a public interest attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In 1988, he left that position to serve as counsel to the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Government Operations Committee. Over the next five years, he conducted oversight of enforcement of federal health and safety laws.
Zeller’s first official position with the agency came in 1993, when he joined the staff of then-FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler. What was originally a two-week assignment to examine the practices of the tobacco industry turned into Zeller’s appointment as associate commissioner and director of the FDA’s first Office of Tobacco Programs.
In this role, Zeller helped craft the FDA’s 1996 tobacco regulations, in which the agency first asserted its authority to regulate the category. He represented the agency before Congress and federal and state agencies, and he served as an official U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) Working Group for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Zeller moved from the FDA to become the executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation in 2000. There he worked on marketing, communications and strategic partnerships, as well as developing its Office of Policy and Government Relations. He was also at the American Legacy Foundation during the first year of the foundation’s anti-smoking Truth campaign that aired on national TV.
In 2002, the consulting firm Pinney Associates hired Zeller as its senior vice president. Over the next 11 years, he served as an adviser on domestic and global public-health policy issues related to tobacco products and pharmaceuticals.