Justices challenge FDA

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Several Supreme Court justices today expressed strong skepticism about the Food & Drug Administration's attempt to regulate tobacco, as the court heard oral arguments in a case that has the potential to have major impact on advertising. Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Scalia and David Souter sharply questioned Solicitor General Seth Waxman on his claim the FDA could now regulate tobacco because of new evidence that tobacco companies where manipulating levels of nicotine to achieve a physical effect, though the FDA has said in the past it couldn't regulate tobacco. Justice O'Connor suggested the FDA's authority is to regulate drugs to assure they are safe and effective, and tobacco "doesn't fit" in that definition. Justice Scalia questioned whether there was really any new evidence. The FDA wants to impose major restrictions on tobacco marketing, packaging and marketing, but an appellate court earlier ruled the agency has no authority to regulate tobacco.

Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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