New Leader Announced for FDA's Center for Tobacco Products

Brian King will join the agency from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Logos for the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Major proposed tobacco regulations are moving forward under the direction of a new leader: Brian King.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) named King as the director of the agency's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). He takes the reins in July, according to Politco.

"I am confident that Brian brings the experience necessary not only to hit the ground running, but also to be able to take on the continuing challenges in this field and help lead CTP to the next level in effective and smart tobacco product regulation," Robert Califf, the FDA's commissioner, said in a staff memo.

King will join the CTP from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He is currently the deputy director for research translation at the Office on Smoking and Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC.

"There's critical work to be done to further prevent people from starting to use tobacco products, encourage tobacco users to quit and reduce the harm caused by tobacco use," King said in a statement. "During my time at CDC, I've had the great privilege to work with the staff at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products on a number of important tobacco issues, and I'm excited to lead CTP to advance these efforts."

King takes the lead at the tobacco center following former director Mitch Zeller's retirement earlier this spring. Michele Mital has been serving as acting director. Mital was deputy director under Zeller.

Zeller stepped down from his post after nine years in the position. Last month, Zeller pointed to several of the  center's accomplishments during his tenure, including:

  • Continuing to stand up the CTP, which has grown from 426 employees when he took the reins in 2013 to more than 1,100 employees today;
  • The ongoing work from a compliance enforcement standpoint through the center's state contracts;
  • The center's public education efforts and accomplishments in the Office of Health Communication and Education;
  • The foundational final rules that have been published that will make clear going forward the pathways for premarket application review; and
  • The review of premarket applications.

Regulatory Agenda

King's new role at the CTP comes as the FDA is moving forward with two new proposed product standards. One would prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and the other to prohibit all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars.

The agency began accepting public comment on the two proposed rules in early May. It will also hold two public listening sessions on June 13 and 15. Once all the for public comment beginning comments have been reviewed and considered, the FDA will decide whether to issue final product standards. 

However, any final decision by the agency is sure to face legal challenges, which could delay any implementation.

In addition, the FDA is still working through the premarket tobacco applications for newly deemed tobacco products — mainly vapor products. In a recent decision, the agency issued marketing authorization orders for two more products in R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.'s (RJR Vapor) portfolio.