Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FDA Launches New Center for Tobacco Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today launched its new Center for Tobacco Products in an historic effort to curb the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by those products each year.

The Center will oversee the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed by President Obama in June 2009. The FDA’s responsibilities under the law include setting performance standards, reviewing premarket applications for new and modified risk tobacco products, and establishing and enforcing advertising and promotion restrictions.

Lawrence Deyton, M.D. M.S.P.H., an expert on veterans’ health issues, public health, tobacco use, and a clinical professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, will serve as the Center’s first director.

“We are thrilled to announce Dr. Deyton’s appointment as director of the Center for Tobacco Products and look forward to him joining the agency,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “He is the rare combination of public health expert, administrative leader, scientist, and clinician.”

Before coming to the FDA, Deyton was Chief Public Health and Environmental Hazards Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His responsibilities there included oversight of the VA’s public health programs including tobacco use, the health of women veterans, the long-term health consequences of military service, and the VA’s emergency preparation and response. He was selected after a national search.

The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, located on the FDA’s White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Md., will use the best available science to guide the development and implementation of effective public health strategies to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products.

To implement the program, the FDA will start with $5 million from the fiscal year 2009 budget to establish the necessary administrative functions for the Center. As set forth in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, funding for the Center and other activities related to the regulation of tobacco will come from user fees paid by manufacturers and importers of tobacco products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes an estimated 438,000 deaths, or about 1 of every 5 deaths, each year. On average, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.

“As many Americans know, freedom from tobacco dependence is the key to a healthy future,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H. “Dr. Deyton’s public health and tobacco cessation experience will be invaluable as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration take on this challenge.”

One of Deyton’s priorities had been revitalization of the VA’s smoking and tobacco use cessation programs. Under his leadership, current smoking among veterans enrolled in the cessation program fell from 33 percent in 1999 to 22 percent in 2007. The VA health care system is the largest integrated provider of health care and medical services in the United States, with more than 1,400 sites serving nearly 6 million veterans in fiscal year 2008.

“I am eager for the challenge of leading the tobacco team at FDA,” said Deyton. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us at FDA to work hand-in-hand with the CDC, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, and public health leaders in the states to make progress in combating tobacco use – the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.”

In 2002, Deyton established the VA’s Public Health Strategic Health Care Group, which encompassed responsibilities for HIV, hepatitis C, tobacco use cessation, bioterrorism, and issues such as SARS, pandemic influenza, and other emerging public health threats. He became Chief Officer in January 2006 and since then has been successful in efforts to address the health needs of veterans.

Deyton has served for 11 years in leadership positions in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, six years in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, and as a legislative aide with the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health and the Environment in the 1970s.

He was a founder in 1978 of the Whitman Walker Clinic, a community based AIDS service organization in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Kansas University, the Harvard School of Public Health and the George Washington University School of Medicine. Deyton’s post-doctorate medical training was at the University of Southern California/Los Angeles County Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and continues to care for patients on a regular basis.

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