FDA Center for Tobacco Products Seeks Input on Research Base

March 14, 2012

by Paula Skedsvold

In June 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act became law, giving the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate tobacco products. FDA created the Center for Tobacco Products to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products. The Center's mission is to protect public health by issuing and enforcing regulations and educating the public about the dangers of smoking.

On February 29, 2012, the Center held a meeting to seek stakeholder input into its planned research program for tobacco product regulation. David Ashley, Director of the Center's Office of Science, said that science is needed to inform the regulations and described four public health objectives that include reducing initiation, promoting cessation, and reducing the harms for those who use the products.

Center staff outlined seven priority research areas:

  • Understanding the diversity of tobacco products (including use behaviors);
  • Reducing addiction to tobacco products; 
  • Reducing toxicity and carcinogenicity of tobacco products and smoke;
  • Understanding the adverse health consequences of tobacco use;
  • Understanding communications about tobacco products;
  • Understanding tobacco product marketing; 
  • Understanding how economics and policies affect tobacco product use.

Robert Croyle, Director of the Division of Cancer Control and Populations Sciences at the National Cancer Institute, also spoke at the meeting: "NIH has a long history of funding research relevant to tobacco, and the issue is how to align it with research on tobacco regulation [at the FDA Center]." Indeed, NIH will continue to fund tobacco research, and NIH grantees can use the NIH site to access links for research funded by both agencies. Researchers who are interested in regulatory science issues involving tobacco products should review the FDA funding opportunities as they become available. Center staff also report that basic science research proposals are welcome if they can inform regulatory issues.

[Note: FDA's David Ashley noted during the meeting that the 2009 law required larger and more visible graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and ads, and "science was critical in the development" of these warnings. A day following the meeting, a U.S. District Court held that the graphic warning labels required under the regulations on graphic warning labels violated the tobacco companies' free speech rights under the First Amendment. The Obama Administration is appealing the decision.]

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