FDA wins some authority to regulate tobacco
Ruling expected to go to Supreme CourtApril 25, 1997
Web posted at: 2:21 p.m. EDT (1821 GMT)
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration cannot restrict tobacco advertising and promotion, but can regulate access to and labeling of cigarettes, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen, a former tobacco-industry lobbyist, was asked in a December tobacco industry motion to make a summary judgment throwing out new FDA regulations on the sale and advertisement of tobacco products.
The rules, declared in August 1996, began taking effect February 25. They are designed to curtail tobacco advertising and keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors. The regulations restrict tobacco advertising deemed to target teen-agers and require that retail stores check picture ID for anyone who appears to be under 27.
The FDA declared the rules on the grounds that it was regulating tobacco products as medical devices that contain an addictive drug, nicotine.
Attorneys for the tobacco companies argue that the FDA has no authority to regulate tobacco, and that the only body which has that right is Congress. They also say the FDA overstepped the bounds of the First Amendment by trying to bar "commercial free speech" with its new rules.
But FDA officials say they believe they have a very good case for regulating tobacco as a drug, since recently discovered documents show the tobacco industry knew nicotine was addictive in 1963.
Osteen's ruling was expected to eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court.
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