Mitch Zeller, a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) veteran, will take over the FDA’s Tobacco Products Center on March 4, 2013, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who added that the center’s work “will continue to vigorously build FDA’s role in tobacco product regulation and efforts to improve public health.”
Created in 2009 after a law gave authority to the FDA to regulate a number of aspects of tobacco marketing and manufacturing, the center was headed by Dr. Lawrence Deyton, who plans to become a professor at George Washington University. Zeller, who served as associated commissioner and director of the agency’s Office of Tobacco Programs from 1993 until 2000, is currently an executive with a pharmaceutical consulting firm. He previously was an executive with the American Legacy Foundation, the Washington, DC-based anti-smoking organization.
An attorney with more than 30 years experience in regulatory, legislative and communications in FDA issues, Zeller was introduced to tobacco control in 1994 as an appointee the Clinton administration. In an interview with AP last year, he said, “We can’t say that regulation alone is going to reduce all the death and disease from tobacco, but I look at it as a vital element of a comprehensive national tobacco control program.”
Zeller is one of the key individuals in the documentary film, “Addiction Incorporated,” that depicts the actions of the tobacco industry and the lawsuits against the industry that were based on FDA investigations and testimony of the tobacco industry whistleblower, Victor DeNoble. He also acted as advisor to the film’s producer and director, Charles Evans, Jr.
Upon learning of Zeller’s new appointment, Evans noted, “This is poetic justice,” adding that Zeller said in a voice over in the film “‘Imagine a world where the only cigarettes kids can experiment with can no longer sustain addiction. Kids will not stop experimenting, but the experimentation would not necessarily lead to regular smoking, addiction, disease and premature death.’
“‘Now, he’s in a position…to make that come true.”