Tobacco Will Not Be Under FDA Jurisdiction Despite Health Hazards

Tobacco Will Not Be Under FDA Jurisdiction Despite Health Hazards

Rosemarie Sweeney

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to regulate tobacco as a drug. In the decision announced on March 21, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reviews whether Congress has specifically addressed the issue of FDA jurisdiction and concludes that, “Congress has directly spoken to the issue here and precluded the FDA’s jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products.” She notes that “The [FDA] has amply demonstrated that tobacco use, particularly among children and adolescents, poses perhaps the single most significant threat to public health in the United States.” However, without congressional action, tobacco will remain outside of the agency’s jurisdiction. Justice O’Connor was joined in the majority opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, states, “Far more than most, this particular drug and device risks the life-threatening harms that administrative regulation seeks to rectify.” He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Following the decision, tobacco stocks gained ground.

COPYRIGHT 2000 American Academy of Family Physicians

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