• FDA’s Role: Tobacco and the Public Health

    Tobacco products are a unique addition to FDA’s regulatory authorities because they are:

    • Harmful yet widely used consumer products
    • Responsible for severe health problems in both users and non-users, including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, which often lead to death

    FDA’s traditional “safe and effective” standard for evaluating medical products does not apply to tobacco. FDA evaluates new tobacco products based on a public health standard that considers the risks and benefits of the tobacco product on the population as a whole, including users and non-users.

    Information for the Tobacco Industry


    How do I get my tobacco product to market?

    FDA currently regulates:

    • Cigarettes
    • Cigarette tobacco
    • Roll-your-own tobacco
    • Smokeless tobacco products

    To legally market your new tobacco product, you must receive a written order from FDA permitting its marketing in the United States. The following tool may help you decide which of the three pathways is appropriate for your new tobacco product. 


    What if my new tobacco product is already on the market?

    New tobacco products may not be legally marketed in the United States unless FDA has issued an order permitting their marketing. However, if a new tobacco product was:

    1. Commercially marketed after February 15, 2007 but before March 22, 2011

    2. A Substantial Equivalence Report was submitted by March 22, 2011

    Then this new tobacco product may continue to be marketed unless FDA issues an order that the new product is not substantially equivalent to an appropriate predicate product.


    How do I make a modified risk claim on my tobacco product?

    To make a modified risk claim about your tobacco product, you must submit a Modified Risk Tobacco Product Application and obtain an order from FDA permitting the marketing of your modified risk product. You should submit this application if you plan to have the product’s label, labeling, or advertising say explicitly or implicitly that:

    • Your tobacco product is less harmful than another tobacco product
    • Your tobacco product has a lower risk of tobacco-related disease than another tobacco product
    • Your tobacco product or its smoke does not contain or is free of a substance
    • Your tobacco product or its smoke contains a reduced level of a substance
    • Your tobacco product or its smoke presents a reduced exposure to a substance

    You must also submit this type of application and obtain an order from FDA permitting marketing before using the descriptors ‘light,’ ‘mild,’ ‘low,’ or similar descriptors.


    When did FDA begin regulating tobacco products?

    FDA’s role in regulating tobacco products was established when the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) was amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. This amendment to the FD&C Act gave FDA the responsibility and authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.