The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dipped its toe in new regulatory waters this week, approving new tobacco products for the first time since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was enacted.
In some ways, it’s hard to tell if the precedent set by Congress and President Barack Obama in approving the FSPTCA is a good thing. There’s certainly plenty of overreach – forcing tobacco companies to take up marketing real estate on their own products with ever-larger FDA warnings, banning “flavored” cigarettes (D’oh! Cloves are now ‘cigars!’) and gerrymandering the boundaries that define what’s acceptable in advertisements.
But a possible silver lining—if there is such a thing where government regulation is concerned— is the FDA’s new role in standardizing product quality. It’s debatable whether that’s a responsibility that should fall to the FDA, but the fact that tobacco companies are now required to disclose what’s in their product to the government could represent a baby step toward a future when they make that same disclosure to the public.
The FDA first gained regulatory purview over tobacco products in 2009 under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.