FDA To Name Head of Tobacco Division

A director is soon to be named to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) new <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">tobacco division. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said she plans on announcing the head of the new post this week, reported CNN.

Although Commissioner Hamburg did say she personally interviewed six potential candidates, she declined to say who is in line for the pending position and from where that individual comes, industry or a public health agency, said CNN.

This past June, President Barack Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. The law will allow the federal government broad authority over tobacco products and will also allow regulators to control cigarette packaging and marketing as well as how much nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—is added in tobacco products, explained the Washington Post previously.

With this new authority, the FDA began its search for a head—a so-called Tobacco Czar—to manage the newly planned tobacco division, noted CNN. CNN said that an ad for the job indicated that the FDA was seeking a “politically savvy” candidate who is not only versed in Congressional inner workings, but who also has “scientific expertise and experience in toxicology, epidemiology, and public health.”

In addition to charging cigarette makers an annual fee for the regulation, flavored cigarettes will be banned by this fall and shortly after—by January—tobacco manufacturers and importers will be required to provide the FDA with the ingredients used in their products, said USA Today, previously. By April 2010, those makers will no longer be permitted to place their logos on “sporting, athletic or entertainment events, or on clothing and other promotional items,” said USA Today, adding that by July 2010, verbiage including the words “light,” “low,” or “mild” will be banned from tobacco product marketing. Finally, by 2011, all tobacco products must “carry larger and stronger warning labels,” reported USA Today.

CNN noted that the law impacts companies such as Lorillard Inc. (LO), which is best known for its Newport brand, and Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), which makes—for example—Camel and Winston cigarettes. Also, under the new law, company marketing will be limited to black and white ads, added CNN.

Commissioner Hamburg explained that the new tobacco division is expected to contain hundreds of FDA staff and that the agency is also working reorganize the commissioner’s office, said CNN. A nationwide search for a food safety deputy commissioner is also planned and will, “be very important as part of our overall effort to modernize and strengthen food safety,” Hamburg said, quoted CNN. The announcements were made this Monday, to medical experts discussing “the state of science” at the agency, said CNN.

Information technology and the safety of the toxic, plastic-hardening chemical, Bisphenol-A, were also discussed. Various studies have found links between the estrogenic chemical and a wide array of adverse health effects, including behavioral, cardiac, developmental, and neurological issues, to name just some.

The agency had been roundly criticized for relying on industry studies for its findings that BPA is safe at current levels. Under its new administration, the FDA is reviewing the chemical, with an acting science chief handling the review; the agency’s recommendation is expected this November, said CNN.

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