FDA CTP Director speaks at Tobacco Merchants Association annual conference..

May 25, 2010 - Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTR), said in a speech at an annual conference of the Tobacco Merchants Association, a trade group that his job "is to address this enormous toll of confusion, suffering and death caused by the current state of tobacco use in this country." Hundreds of tobacco-industry representatives, analysts, and some public-health advocates are attending the three-day conference, which focuses mainly on regulation of the industry.

Deyton said he would place strong emphasis on reducing the number of minors who become tobacco users. He said 4,000 kids begin smoking each day, on average, and 1,000 become regular users. He reiterated his concern that new, dissolvable forms of smokeless tobacco produced by companies such as Reynolds American Inc. are candy-like in their appearance.

Mr. Deyton said he's a fan of competition in industries and that he would be open-minded about new products that might reduce illness and death associated with tobacco use. He did not specify smokeless tobacco, but some tobacco companies have argued that the agency should permit them to market the products as being less dangerous than cigarettes. The tobacco law, however, creates a high bar for a company to be able to market a product as posing less harm to consumers than conventional tobacco products.

Mr. Deyton said the FDA had just begun a fact-finding effort to decide whether to add cigars to the list of tobacco products that it will closely regulate.

"We are examining the public health impact of other products" besides cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, he said, "but on no particular deadline."

Ann Gurkin, a securities analyst with Davenport & Co., the Richmond-based stock brokerage, said she was concerned that some of the discussions about menthol at the last meeting of the agency's scientific advisory board suggested the group was not focusing on the science about menthol in cigarettes.

Deyton said the FDA's regulatory decisions will be based on science and will seek to educate consumers about the risks of tobacco use.

References: Industry should cooperate with FDA, new tobacco chief says, JOHN REID BLACKWELL AND DAVID RESS, Richmond TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITERS, 5/25/2010; FDA Tobacco Regulator Promises Firm Approach, Open Mind by DAVID KESMODEL, The Wall Street Journal, 5/24/2010.