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FDA's Center for Tobacco Products Gets New Leadership

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tapped Mitch Zeller to become director of the Center for Tobacco Products beginning March 4.

Zeller will replace the center's current director, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, who is stepping down to become a clinical professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, according to the FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

"FDA, and I, will feel the loss of a true public servant. However, [Deyton] carries his dedication and commitment to a healthier America to a vitally important new venue -- assuring that the next generation of physicians and health scientists possess skills and experience that integrate medicine with public health, health policy and regulatory science," Hamburg stated in a memo.

Zeller currently serves as an executive with a Maryland-based pharmaceutical consulting firm. He was previously an executive with the American Legacy Foundation, an anti-smoking organization that was established as part of the settlement between states and the tobacco industry.

Zeller has more than 30 years of FDA-related experience, including a six-year stint as a public interest attorney working on food issues, five years as a congressional counsel working on food and drug issues, and seven years as a senior FDA official. While at the FDA, he oversaw the agency's original assertion of jurisdiction over tobacco products in the 1990s and was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Tobacco Programs.

Deyton will be available to Zeller for several weeks to support his transition into his new role.

Deyton took the lead at the Center for Tobacco Products from its inception. He was named to the post in August 2009, two months after President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, giving the FDA regulatory control over tobacco products.

Deyton previously served as a Veterans Affairs (VA) official. In his career, he started various public health initiatives such as a program at the VA that lowered smoking rates among veterans, and was also a founder of the Whitman Walker Clinic, a community-based AIDS service organization in Washington, D.C., as CSNews Online previously reported.

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