November 3, 2009 / 9:02 PM / 10 years ago

FDA tobacco chief sees no lawsuit impact

ROCKVILLE, Maryland (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is moving quickly to use its sweeping new tobacco powers despite facing swift legal action from cigarette makers, the agency’s tobacco chief told Reuters on Tuesday.

Dr. Lawrence Deyton said lawsuits from companies such as Reynolds American Inc RAI.N, Lorillard Inc LO.N and others are not slowing his work to set up the FDA’s tobacco unit or take action against products that harm the public, especially children.

“Congress is very clear what it wants me to do, I’m moving ahead. Nobody’s told me not to,” Deyton said in an interview at his office in suburban Maryland.

The FDA Center for Tobacco Products, established by law in June, is charged with regulating cigarettes and other tobacco products. It will oversee the manufacturing and marketing, in part by regulating ingredients and setting advertising rules.

A flavored cigarette ban is being challenged in court by several privately held companies and distributors.

Major cigarette makers such as Reynolds and Lorillard also sued the FDA in August, saying the tobacco law limited the companies’ free speech rights with advertising restrictions. Altria Group Inc’s (MO.N) Philip Morris unit, the nation’s largest tobacco company and a supporter of the FDA’s new oversight, is not part of that lawsuit.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Tim Dobbyn

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