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Putting the science behind FDA’s tobacco regulation  

Jump to full article: The Washington Post, 2012-04-29
Author: The Partnership for Public Service


The law giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products requires that it base decisions on science, including proposals to reduce the harm caused to those who smoke and to discourage youngsters from using tobacco.

Leading this ambitious effort is David Ashley, the science director of the FDA's Center's for Tobacco Products, who sees his job as "an incredible opportunity to have an impact on public health." . . .

Ashley said he has spent the past two years hiring a staff of about 70 people, "getting our feet on the ground," establishing the research agenda, and building relationships with outside organizations like the National Institutes of Health that will conduct the scientific inquiries.

He said some of the top priorities for research include looking at ways to reduce addiction to tobacco products; reducing the toxicity and carcinogenicity of tobacco products and smoke; understanding the adverse health consequences of tobacco use; and better understanding communications and marketing regarding tobacco products.

Ashley said the science agenda as well as the work of the entire tobacco regulatory center has been steadily making progress. However, he said one of the frustrations is that decisions are not made as fast as he would like.

"There are good reasons for that," said Ashley. "We need to get input from many different stakeholders in order that the decisions we make will be the most appropriate and most effective."

Nevertheless, Ashley said that it is "a challenge to know that for every day a decision is delayed and we cannot act, about 1200 people die from using tobacco products."

Kim Elliott, the associate director at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said Ashley is "a world renowned chemist who has tremendous expertise on tobacco product design and what goes into the products."

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