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The new head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products is a longtime critic of the tobacco industry, The Wall Street Journal reports. Mitch Zeller’s appointment may signal stricter oversight of cigarette manufacturers, according to the newspaper.

Zeller will become director of the center next month, as the FDA is preparing to make recommendations on regulating electronic cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. The agency is also considering restrictions on menthol cigarettes.

Zeller is an attorney and a former official in the FDA’s Office of Tobacco Programs. He helped build the first nationwide program to reduce youth access to tobacco, the newspaper notes. From 2000 to 2002, he was an executive at the anti-smoking organization the American Legacy Foundation. He then joined consultants Pinney Associates, where he advised drug companies on smoking cessation products.

In a statement, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids thanked the current head of the Center for Tobacco Products, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, for his critical leadership in establishing the center and implementing key provisions of the landmark 2009 law giving the FDA authority over tobacco products.

The group said Zeller “is deeply familiar with the harmful practices of the tobacco industry and the need for the FDA to act aggressively to curtail those practices in order to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use. Mr. Zeller’s experience, knowledge and commitment will allow him to move quickly to ensure the promise of the 2009 law is fully realized.”

Zeller has said the FDA has moved too slowly on making a ruling on menthol cigarettes and other issues related to tobacco.


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