EPA Ruling Threatens FDA’s Tobacco Plans

    Photo: renaschild

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to block the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing power-plant emissions also threatens the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to limit nicotine and ban menthol in cigarettes, according to an article published by Bloomberg Law.

    In their ruling, the Supreme Court judges endorsed a legal approach that requires agencies to obtain Congressional approval to address issues of major financial or political importance in novel ways. The court’s conservative members have lamented the power agencies have to create and enforce their own rules.

    According to Lindsay Wiley, a professor at UCLA School of Law, the decision will be considered in any situation where an administrative agency is trying to solve a problem using authority given to it by Congress in more general terms.

    In the case of tobacco, the FDA will face greater pressure to prove it is authorized by Congress to propose its draft ban on menthol in cigarettes and cigars and other major rule changes, according to Marc Scheineson, a former FDA commissioner.

    While the Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA the authority to adopt product standards—including on the content of cigarettes—through notice and comment rulemaking, legal experts believe the June 30 court ruling will embolden tobacco manufacturers to challenge the menthol ban and other policies once they are finalized.

    “It definitely provides a roadmap that the industry will follow trying to attack the menthol regulation with everything they can come up with,” said Joelle Lester, director of commercial tobacco control programs at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Public Health Law Center.