Twas four nights before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except staffers at the White House. That’s right, at 3 p.m. on Friday, December 21, 2012, the last business day before Christmas, the White House finally released its Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan, which included coal in the stocking in the form of more regulations for tobacco companies.
The long-awaited document serves as a broad outline of the federal agencies’ priorities and plans for new regulations during the upcoming year. The compilation of agendas and regulatory plans covers everything from workplace safety, employee benefits, health care standards and yes, tobacco regulation.
As you all know, the Tobacco Control Act provides the Food and Drug Administration with authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. The Tobacco Act also permits the FDA to issue regulations covering other tobacco products.
On December 21, 2012, in its regulatory plan, the FDA indicated that it intends to issue a proposed rule, by April 2013, subjecting additional tobacco products to FDA’s authority. What products are we talking about; and what additional restrictions will the FDA specify? The answer to both questions is unclear. What is clear is that while the FDA has not issued a specific proposal to regulate cigars, pipe tobacco, electronic cigarettes or other tobacco products, it has indicated it intends to take some action. This proposed rule seems to lay the foundation for the FDA to take that action. What is also clear, is that the Obama Administration continues to place tobacco regulation as one of its priorities for the next four years.
Remember that just because an agency proposes a regulation doesn’t mean that it will automatically go into effect. The regulation has to be grounded in law. However, the items set forth in the 2012 unified agenda are a strong indicator of the issues agencies will make priorities in 2013. So make sure you stay tuned; this is certain to be a fast moving and interesting year – we will keep you posted once the smoke clears.