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FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.

March 21, 2000

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, ET AL., PETITIONERS V. BROWN & WILLIAMSON TOBACCO CORPORATION ET AL.


Court Below: 153 F. 3d 155

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

OCTOBER TERM, 1999

FDA v. BROWN & WILLIAMSON TOBACCO CORP.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION et al. v. BROWN & WILLIAMSON TOBACCO CORP. et al.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit

No. 98-1152.

Argued December 1, 1999

Decided March 21, 2000

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U. S. C. §301 et seq., grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the designee of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the authority to regulate, among other items, "drugs" and "devices," §§321(g)-(h), 393. In 1996, the FDA asserted jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products, concluding that, under the FDCA, nicotine is a "drug" and cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "devices" that deliver nicotine to the body. Pursuant to this authority, the FDA promulgated regulations governing tobacco products' promotion, labeling, and accessibility to children and adolescents. The FDA found that tobacco use is the Nation's leading cause of premature death, resulting in more than 400,000 deaths annually, and that most adult smokers begin when they are minors. The regulations therefore aim to reduce tobacco use by minors so as to substantially reduce the prevalence of addiction in future generations, and thus the incidence of tobacco-related death and disease. Respondents, a group of tobacco manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers, filed this suit challenging the FDA's regulations. They moved for summary judgment on the ground, inter alia, that the FDA lacked jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed, that is, without manufacturer claims of therapeutic benefit. The District Court upheld the FDA's authority, but the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that Congress has not granted the FDA jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. The court concluded that construing the FDCA to include tobacco products would lead to several internal inconsistencies in the Act. It also found that evidence external to the FDCA -- that the FDA consistently stated before 1995 that it lacked jurisdiction over tobacco, that Congress has enacted several tobacco-specific statutes fully cognizant of the FDA's position, and that Congress has considered and rejected many bills that would have given the agency such authority -- confirms this conclusion.

Held: Reading the FDCA as a whole, as well as in conjunction with Congress' subsequent tobacco-specific legislation, it is plain that Congress has not given the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed. Pp. 8-40.

(a) Because this case involves an agency's construction of a statute it administers, the Court's analysis is governed by Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, under which a reviewing court must first ask whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue, id., at 842. If so, the court must give effect to Congress' unambiguously expressed intent. E.g., id., at 843. If not, the court must defer to the agency's construction of the statute so long as it is permissible. See, e.g., INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre, 526 U. S. 415, 424. In determining whether Congress has specifically addressed the question at issue, the court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation. Rather, it must place the provision in context, interpreting the statute to create a symmetrical and coherent regulatory scheme. Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'Connor

Opinion of the Court

FDA v. BROWN & WILLIAMSON TOBACCO CORP.

On Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit

This case involves one of the most troubling public health problems facing our Nation today: the thousands of premature deaths that occur each year because of tobacco use. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after having expressly disavowed any such authority since its inception, asserted jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. See 61 Fed. Reg. 44619-45318. The FDA concluded that nicotine is a "drug" within the meaning of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA or Act), 52 Stat. 1040, as amended, 21 U. S. C. §301 et seq., and that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "combination products" that deliver nicotine to the body. 61 Fed. Reg. 44397 (1996). Pursuant to this authority, it promulgated regulations intended to reduce tobacco consumption among children and adolescents. Id., at 44615-44618. The agency believed that, because most tobacco consumers begin their use before reaching the age of 18, curbing tobacco use by minors could substantially reduce the prevalence of addiction in future generations and thus the incidence of tobacco-related death and disease. Id., at 44398-44399.

Regardless of how serious the problem an administrative agency seeks to address, however, it may not exercise its authority "in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure that Congress enacted into law." ETSI Pipeline Project v. Missouri, 484 U. S. 495, 517 (1988). And although agencies are generally entitled to deference in the interpretation of statutes that they administer, a reviewing "court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 842-843 (1984). In this case, we believe that Congress has clearly precluded the FDA from asserting jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. Such authority is inconsistent with the intent that Congress has expressed in the FDCA's overall regulatory scheme and in the tobacco-specific legislation that it has enacted subsequent to the FDCA. In light of this clear intent, the FDA's assertion of jurisdiction is impermissible.

I.

The FDCA grants the FDA, as the designee of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the authority to regulate, among other items, "drugs" and "devices." See 21 U. S. C. §§321(g)-(h), 393 (1994 ed. and Supp. III). The Act defines "drug" to include "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body." 21 U. S. C. §321(g)(1)(C). It defines "device," in part, as "an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, ... or other similar or related article, including any component, part, or accessory, which is ... intended to affect the structure or any function of the body." §321(h). The Act also grants the FDA the authority to regulate so-called "combination products," which "constitute a combination of a drug, device, or biologic product." §353(g)(1). The FDA has construed this provision as giving it the discretion to regulate combination products as drugs, as devices, or as both. See 61 Fed. Reg. 44400 (1996).

On August 11, 1995, the FDA published a proposed rule concerning the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to children and adolescents. 60 Fed. Reg. 41314-41787. The rule, which included several restrictions on the sale, distribution, and advertisement of tobacco products, was designed to reduce the availability and attractiveness of tobacco products to young people. Id., at 41314. A public comment period followed, during which the FDA received over 700,000 submissions, more than "at any other time in its history on any other subject." 61 Fed. Reg. 44418 (1996).

On August 28, 1996, the FDA issued a final rule entitled "Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents." Id., at 44396. The FDA determined that nicotine is a "drug" and that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "drug delivery devices," and therefore it had jurisdiction under the FDCA to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed -- that is, without manufacturer claims of therapeutic benefit. Id., at 44397, 44402. First, the FDA found that tobacco products " `affect the structure or any function of the body' " because nicotine "has significant pharmacological effects." Id., at 44631. Specifically, nicotine "exerts psychoactive, or mood-altering, effects on the brain" that cause and sustain addiction, have both tranquilizing and stimulating effects, and control weight. Id., at 44631-44632. Second, the FDA determined that these effects were "intended" under the FDCA because they "are so widely known and foreseeable that [they] may be deemed to have been intended by the manufacturers," id., at 44687; consumers use tobacco products "predominantly or nearly exclusively" to obtain these effects, id., at 44807; and the statements, research, and actions of manufacturers revealed that they "have `designed' cigarettes to provide pharmacologically active doses of nicotine to consumers," id., at 44849. Finally, the agency concluded that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "combination products" because, in addition to containing nicotine, they include device components that deliver a controlled amount of nicotine to the body, id., at 45208-45216.

Having resolved the jurisdictional question, the FDA next explained the policy justifications for its regulations, detailing the deleterious health effects associated with tobacco use. It found that tobacco consumption was "the single leading cause of preventable death in the United States." Id., at 44398. According to the FDA, "[m]ore than 400,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, such as cancer, respiratory illnesses, and heart disease." Ibid. The agency also determined that the only way to reduce the amount of tobacco-related illness and mortality was to reduce the level of addiction, a goal that could be accomplished only by preventing children and adolescents from starting to use tobacco. Id., at 44398-44399. The FDA found that 82% of adult smokers had their first cigarette before the age of 18, and more than half had already become regular smokers by that age. Id., at 44398. It also found that children were beginning to smoke at a younger age, that the prevalence of youth smoking had recently increased, and that similar problems existed with respect to smokeless tobacco. Id., at 44398-44399. The FDA accordingly concluded that if "the number of children and adolescents who begin tobacco use can be substantially diminished, tobacco-related illness can be correspondingly reduced because data suggest that anyone who does not begin smoking in childhood or adolescence is unlikely ever to begin." Id., at 44399.

Based on these findings, the FDA promulgated regulations concerning tobacco products' promotion, labeling, and accessibility to children and adolescents. See id., at 44615-44618. The access regulations prohibit the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to persons younger than 18; require retailers to verify through photo identification the age of all purchasers younger than 27; prohibit the sale of cigarettes in quantities smaller than 20; prohibit the distribution of free samples; and prohibit sales through self-service displays and vending machines except in adult-only locations. Id., at 44616-44617. The promotion regulations require that any print advertising appear in a black-and-white, text-only format unless the publication in which it appears is read almost exclusively by adults; prohibit outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of any public playground or school; prohibit the distribution of any promotional items, such as T-shirts or hats, bearing the manufacturer's brand name; and prohibit a manufacturer from sponsoring any athletic, musical, artistic, or other social or cultural event using its brand name. Id., at 44617-44618. The labeling regulation requires that the statement, "A Nicotine-Delivery Device for Persons 18 or Older," appear on all tobacco product packages. Id., at 44617.

The FDA promulgated these regulations pursuant to its authority to regulate "restricted devices." See 21 U. S. C. §360j(e). The FDA construed §353(g)(1) as giving it the discretion to regulate "combination products" using the Act's drug authorities, device authorities, or both, depending on "how the public health goals of the act can be best accomplished." 61 Fed. Reg. 44403 (1996). Given the greater flexibility in the FDCA for the regulation of devices, the FDA determined that "the device authorities provide the most appropriate basis for regulating cigarettes and smokeless tobacco." Id., at 44404. Under 21 U. S. C. §360j(e), the agency may "require that a device be restricted to sale, distribution, or use ... upon such other conditions as [the FDA] may prescribe in such regulation, if, because of its potentiality for harmful effect or the collateral measures necessary to its use, [the FDA] determines that there cannot otherwise be reasonable assurance of its safety and effectiveness." The FDA reasoned that its regulations fell within the authority granted by §360j(e) because they related to the sale or distribution of tobacco products and were necessary for providing a reasonable assurance of safety. 61 Fed. Reg. 44405-44407 (1996).

Respondents, a group of tobacco manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers, filed suit in United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina challenging the regulations. See Coyne Beahm, Inc. v. FDA, 966 F. Supp. 1374 (1997). They moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the FDA lacked jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed, the regulations exceeded the FDA's authority under 21 U. S. C. §360j(e), and the advertising restrictions violated the First Amendment. Second Brief in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment in No. 2:95CV00591 (MDNC), in 3 Rec. in No. 97-1604 (CA4), Tab No. 40; Third Brief in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment in No. 2:95CV00591 (MDNC), in 3 Rec. in No. 97-1604 (CA4), Tab No. 42. The District Court granted respondents' motion in part and denied it in part. 966 F. Supp., at 1400. The court held that the FDCA authorizes the FDA to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed and that the FDA's access and labeling regulations are permissible, but it also found that the agency's advertising and promotion restrictions exceed its authority under §360j(e). Id., at 1380-1400. The court stayed implementation of the regulations it found valid (except the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to minors) and certified its order for immediate interlocutory appeal. Id., at 1400-1401.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that Congress has not granted the FDA jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. See 153 F. 3d 155 (1998). Examining the FDCA as a whole, the court concluded that the FDA's regulation of tobacco products would create a number of internal inconsistencies. Id., at 162-167. Various provisions of the Act require the agency to determine that any regulated product is "safe" before it can be sold or allowed to remain on the market, yet the FDA found in its rulemaking proceeding that tobacco products are "dangerous" and "unsafe." Id., at 164-167. Thus, the FDA would apparently have to ban tobacco products, a result the court found clearly contrary to congressional intent. Ibid. This apparent anomaly, the Court of Appeals concluded, demonstrates that Congress did not intend to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. Id., at 167. The court also found that evidence external to the FDCA confirms this conclusion. Importantly, the FDA consistently stated before 1995 that it lacked jurisdiction over tobacco, and Congress has enacted several tobacco-specific statutes fully cognizant of the FDA's position. See id., at 168-176. In fact, the court reasoned, Congress has considered and rejected many bills that would have given the agency such authority. See id., at 170-171. This, along with the absence of any intent by the enacting Congress in 1938 to subject tobacco products to regulation under the FDCA, demonstrates that Congress intended to withhold such authority from the FDA. Id., at 167-176. Having resolved the jurisdictional question against the agency, the Court of Appeals did not address whether the regulations exceed the FDA's authority under 21 U. S. C. §360j(e) or violate the First Amendment. See 153 F. 3d, at 176, n. 29.

We granted the Government's petition for certiorari, 526 U. S. 1086 (1999), to determine whether the FDA has authority under the FDCA to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed.

II.

The FDA's assertion of jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products is founded on its conclusions that nicotine is a "drug" and that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "drug delivery devices." Again, the FDA found that tobacco products are "intended" to deliver the pharmacological effects of satisfying addiction, stimulation and tranquilization, and weight control because those effects are foreseeable to any reasonable manufacturer, consumers use tobacco products to obtain those effects, and tobacco manufacturers have designed their products to produce those effects. 61 Fed. Reg. 44632-44633 (1996). As an initial matter, respondents take issue with the FDA's reading of "intended," arguing that it is a term of art that refers exclusively to claims made by the manufacturer or vendor about the product. See Brief for Respondent Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. 6. That is, a product is not a drug or device under the FDCA unless the manufacturer or vendor makes some express claim concerning the product's therapeutic benefits. See id., at 6-7. We need not resolve this question, however, because assuming, arguendo, that a product can be "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body" absent claims of therapeutic or medical benefit, the FDA's claim to jurisdiction contravenes the clear intent of Congress.

A threshold issue is the appropriate framework for analyzing the FDA's assertion of authority to regulate tobacco products. Because this case involves an administrative agency's construction of a statute that it administers, our analysis is governed by Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837 (1984). Under Chevron, a reviewing court must first ask "whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue." Id., at 842. If Congress has done so, the inquiry is at an end; the court "must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." Id., at 843; see also United States v. Haggar Apparel Co., 526 U. S. 380, 392 (1999); Holly Farms Corp. v. NLRB, 517 U. S. 392, 398 (1996). But if Congress has not specifically addressed the question, a reviewing court must respect the agency's construction of the statute so long as it is permissible. See INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre, 526 U. S. 415, 424 (1999); Auer v. Robbins, 519 U. S. 452, 457 (1997). Such deference is justified because "[t]he responsibilities for assessing the wisdom of such policy choices and resolving the struggle between competing views of the public interest are not judicial ones," Chevron, supra, at 866, and because of the agency's greater familiarity with the ever-changing facts and circumstances surrounding the subjects regulated, see Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173, 187 (1991).

In determining whether Congress has specifically addressed the question at issue, a reviewing court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation. The meaning -- or ambiguity -- of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context. See Brown v. Gardner, 513 U. S. 115, 118 (1994) ("Ambiguity is a creature not of definitional possibilities but of statutory context"). It is a "fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme." Davis v. Michigan Dept. of Treasury, 489 U. S. 803, 809 (1989). A court must therefore interpret the statute "as a symmetrical and coherent regulatory scheme," Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U. S. 561, 569 (1995), and "fit, if possible, all parts into an harmonious whole," FTC v. Mandel Brothers, Inc., 359 U. S. 385, 389 (1959). Similarly, the meaning of one statute may be affected by other Acts, particularly where Congress has spoken subsequently and more specifically to the topic at hand. See United States v. Estate of Romani, 523 U. S. 517, 530-531 (1998); United States v. Fausto, 484 U. S. 439, 453 (1988). In addition, we must be guided to a degree by common sense as to the manner in which Congress is likely to delegate a policy decision of such economic and political magnitude to an administrative agency. Cf. MCI Telecommunications Corp. v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., 512 U. S. 218, 231 (1994).

With these principles in mind, we find that Congress has directly spoken to the issue here and precluded the FDA's jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products.

A.

Viewing the FDCA as a whole, it is evident that one of the Act's core objectives is to ensure that any product regulated by the FDA is "safe" and "effective" for its intended use. See 21 U. S. C. §393(b)(2) (1994 ed., Supp. III) (defining the FDA's mission); More Information for Better Patient Care: Hearing before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, 104th Cong., 2d Sess., 83 (1996) (statement of FDA Deputy Commissioner Schultz) ("A fundamental precept of drug and device regulation in this country is that these products must be proven safe and effective before they can be sold"). This essential purpose pervades the FDCA. For instance, 21 U. S. C. §393(b)(2) (1994 ed., Supp. III) defines the FDA's "mission" to include "protect[ing] the public health by ensuring that ... drugs are safe and effective" and that "there is reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of devices intended for human use." The FDCA requires premarket approval of any new drug, with some limited exceptions, and states that the FDA "shall issue an order refusing to approve the application" of a new drug if it is not safe and effective for its intended purpose. §§355(d)(1)-(2), (4)-(5). If the FDA discovers after approval that a drug is unsafe or ineffective, it "shall, after due notice and opportunity for hearing to the applicant, withdraw approval" of the drug. 21 U. S. C. §§355(e)(1)-(3). The Act also requires the FDA to classify all devices into one of three categories. §360c(b)(1). Regardless of which category the FDA chooses, there must be a "reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of the device." 21 U. S. C. §§360c(a)(1)(A)(i), (B), (C) (1994 ed. and Supp. III); 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). Even the "restricted device" provision pursuant to which the FDA promulgated the regulations at issue here authorizes the agency to place conditions on the sale or distribution of a device specifically when "there cannot otherwise be reasonable assurance of its safety and effectiveness." 21 U. S. C. §360j(e). Thus, the Act generally requires the FDA to prevent the marketing of any drug or device where the "potential for inflicting death or physical injury is not offset by the possibility of therapeutic benefit." United States v. Rutherford, 442 U. S. 544, 556 (1979).

In its rulemaking proceeding, the FDA quite exhaustively documented that "tobacco products are unsafe," "dangerous," and "cause great pain and suffering from illness." 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). It found that the consumption of tobacco products "presents extraordinary health risks," and that "tobacco use is the single leading cause of preventable death in the United States." Id., at 44398. It stated that "[m]ore than 400,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, such as cancer, respiratory illnesses, and heart disease, often suffering long and painful deaths," and that "[t]obacco alone kills more people each year in the United States than acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), car accidents, alcohol, homicides, illegal drugs, suicides, and fires, combined." Ibid. Indeed, the FDA characterized smoking as "a pediatric disease," id., at 44421, because "one out of every three young people who become regular smokers ... will die prematurely as a result," id., at 44399.

These findings logically imply that, if tobacco products were "devices" under the FDCA, the FDA would be required to remove them from the market. Consider, first, the FDCA's provisions concerning the misbranding of drugs or devices. The Act prohibits "[t]he introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food, drug, device, or cosmetic that is adultered or misbranded." 21 U. S. C. §331(a). In light of the FDA's findings, two distinct FDCA provisions would render cigarettes and smokeless tobacco misbranded devices. First, §352(j) deems a drug or device misbranded "[i]f it is dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof." The FDA's findings make clear that tobacco products are "dangerous to health" when used in the manner prescribed. Second, a drug or device is misbranded under the Act "[u]nless its labeling bears ... adequate directions for use ... in such manner and form, as are necessary for the protection of users," except where such directions are "not necessary for the protection of the public health." §352(f)(1). Given the FDA's conclusions concerning the health consequences of tobacco use, there are no directions that could adequately protect consumers. That is, there are no directions that could make tobacco products safe for obtaining their intended effects. Thus, were tobacco products within the FDA's jurisdiction, the Act would deem them misbranded devices that could not be introduced into interstate commerce. Contrary to the dissent's contention, the Act admits no remedial discretion once it is evident that the device is misbranded.

Second, the FDCA requires the FDA to place all devices that it regulates into one of three classifications. See §360c(b)(1). The agency relies on a device's classification in determining the degree of control and regulation necessary to ensure that there is "a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness." 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). The FDA has yet to classify tobacco products. Instead, the regulations at issue here represent so-called "general controls," which the Act entitles the agency to impose in advance of classification. See id., at 44404-44405. Although the FDCA prescribes no deadline for device classification, the FDA has stated that it will classify tobacco products "in a future rulemaking" as required by the Act. Id., at 44412. Given the FDA's findings regarding the health consequences of tobacco use, the agency would have to place cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in Class III because, even after the application of the Act's available controls, they would "presen[t] a potential unreasonable risk of illness or injury." 21 U. S. C. §360c(a)(1)(C). As Class III devices, tobacco products would be subject to the FDCA's premarket approval process. See 21 U. S. C. §360c(a)(1)(C) (1994 ed., Supp. III); 21 U. S. C. §360e; 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). Under these provisions, the FDA would be prohibited from approving an application for premarket approval without "a showing of reasonable assurance that such device is safe under the conditions of use prescribed, recommended, or suggested on the labeling thereof." 21 U. S. C. §360e(d)(2)(A). In view of the FDA's conclusions regarding the health effects of tobacco use, the agency would have no basis for finding any such reasonable assurance of safety. Thus, once the FDA fulfilled its statutory obligation to classify tobacco products, it could not allow them to be marketed.

The FDCA's misbranding and device classification provisions therefore make evident that were the FDA to regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, the Act would require the agency to ban them. In fact, based on these provisions, the FDA itself has previously taken the position that if tobacco products were within its jurisdiction, "they would have to be removed from the market because it would be impossible to prove they were safe for their intended us[e]." Public Health Cigarette Amendments of 1971: Hearings before the Commerce Subcommittee on S. 1454, 92d Cong., 2d Sess., 239 (1972) (hereinafter 1972 Hearings) (statement of FDA Commissioner Charles Edwards). See also Cigarette Labeling and Advertising: Hearings before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., 18 (1964) (hereinafter 1964 Hearings) (statement of Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) Secretary Anthony Celebrezze that proposed amendments to the FDCA that would have given the FDA jurisdiction over "smoking product[s]" "might well completely outlaw at least cigarettes").

Congress, however, has foreclosed the removal of tobacco products from the market. A provision of the United States Code currently in force states that "[t]he marketing of tobacco constitutes one of the greatest basic industries of the United States with ramifying activities which directly affect interstate and foreign commerce at every point, and stable conditions therein are necessary to the general welfare." 7 U. S. C. §1311(a). More importantly, Congress has directly addressed the problem of tobacco and health through legislation on six occasions since 1965. See Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA), Pub. L. 89-92, 79 Stat. 282; Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969, Pub. L. 91-222, 84 Stat. 87; Alcohol and Drug Abuse Amendments of 1983, Pub. L. 98-24, 97 Stat. 175; Comprehensive Smoking Education Act, Pub. L. 98-474, 98 Stat. 2200; Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986, Pub. L. 99-252, 100 Stat. 30; Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, Pub. L. 102-321, §202, 106 Stat. 394. When Congress enacted these statutes, the adverse health consequences of tobacco use were well known, as were nicotine's pharmacological effects. See, e.g., U. S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, U. S. Surgeon General's Advisory Committee, Smoking and Health 25-40, 69-75 (1964) (hereinafter 1964 Surgeon General's Report) (concluding that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, coronary artery disease, and chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and that nicotine has various pharmacological effects, including stimulation, tranquilization, and appetite suppression); U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Health Consequences of Smoking for Women 7-12 (1980) (finding that mortality rates for lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and coronary heart disease are increased for both women and men smokers, and that smoking during pregnancy is associated with significant adverse health effects on the unborn fetus and newborn child); U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Why People Smoke Cigarettes (1983), in Smoking Prevention Education Act, Hearings on H. R. 1824 before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 98th Cong., 1st Sess., 32-37 (1983) (hereinafter 1983 House Hearings) (stating that smoking is "the most widespread example of drug dependence in our country," and that cigarettes "affect the chemistry of the brain and nervous system"); U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction 6-9, 145-239 (1988) (hereinafter 1988 Surgeon General's Report) (concluding that tobacco products are addicting in much the same way as heroin and cocaine, and that nicotine is the drug that causes addiction). Nonetheless, Congress stopped well short of ordering a ban. Instead, it has generally regulated the labeling and advertisement of tobacco products, expressly providing that it is the policy of Congress that "commerce and the national economy may be ... protected to the maximum extent consistent with" consumers "be[ing] adequately informed about any adverse health effects." 15 U. S. C. §1331. Congress' decisions to regulate labeling and advertising and to adopt the express policy of protecting "commerce and the national economy ... to the maximum extent" reveal its intent that tobacco products remain on the market. Indeed, the collective premise of these statutes is that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco will continue to be sold in the United States. A ban of tobacco products by the FDA would therefore plainly contradict congressional policy.

The FDA apparently recognized this dilemma and concluded, somewhat ironically, that tobacco products are actually "safe" within the meaning of the FDCA. In promulgating its regulations, the agency conceded that "tobacco products are unsafe, as that term is conventionally understood." 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). Nonetheless, the FDA reasoned that, in determining whether a device is safe under the Act, it must consider "not only the risks presented by a product but also any of the countervailing effects of use of that product, including the consequences of not permitting the product to be marketed." Id., at 44412-44413. Applying this standard, the FDA found that, because of the high level of addiction among tobacco users, a ban would likely be "dangerous." Id., at 44413. In particular, current tobacco users could suffer from extreme withdrawal, the health care system and available pharmaceuticals might not be able to meet the treatment demands of those suffering from withdrawal, and a black market offering cigarettes even more dangerous than those currently sold legally would likely develop. Ibid. The FDA therefore concluded that, "while taking cigarettes and smokeless tobacco off the market could prevent some people from becoming addicted and reduce death and disease for others, the record does not establish that such a ban is the appropriate public health response under the act." Id., at 44398.

It may well be, as the FDA asserts, that "these factors must be considered when developing a regulatory scheme that achieves the best public health result for these products." Id., at 44413. But the FDA's judgment that leaving tobacco products on the market "is more effective in achieving public health goals than a ban," ibid., is no substitute for the specific safety determinations required by the FDCA's various operative provisions. Several provisions in the Act require the FDA to determine that the product itself is safe as used by consumers. That is, the product's probable therapeutic benefits must outweigh its risk of harm. See United States v. Rutherford, 442 U. S., at 555 ("[T]he Commissioner generally considers a drug safe when the expected therapeutic gain justifies the risk entailed by its use"). In contrast, the FDA's conception of safety would allow the agency, with respect to each provision of the FDCA that requires the agency to determine a product's "safety" or "dangerousness," to compare the aggregate health effects of alternative administrative actions. This is a qualitatively different inquiry. Thus, although the FDA has concluded that a ban would be "dangerous," it has not concluded that tobacco products are "safe" as that term is used throughout the Act.

Consider 21 U. S. C. §360c(a)(2), which specifies those factors that the FDA may consider in determining the safety and effectiveness of a device for purposes of classification, performance standards, and premarket approval. For all devices regulated by the FDA, there must at least be a "reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of the device." See 21 U. S. C. §§360c(a)(1)(A)(i), (B), (C) (1994 ed. and Supp. III); 61 Fed. Reg. 44412 (1996). Title 21 U. S. C. §360c(a)(2) provides that

"the safety and effectiveness of a device are to be determined --

"(A) with respect to the persons for whose use the device is represented or intended,

"(B) with respect to the conditions of use prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling of the device, and

"(C) weighing any probable benefit to health from the use of the device against any probable risk of injury or illness from such use."

A straightforward reading of this provision dictates that the FDA must weigh the probable therapeutic benefits of the device to the consumer against the probable risk of injury. Applied to tobacco products, the inquiry is whether their purported benefits -- satisfying addiction, stimulation and sedation, and weight control -- outweigh the risks to health from their use. To accommodate the FDA's conception of safety, however, one must read "any probable benefit to health" to include the benefit to public health stemming from adult consumers' continued use of tobacco products, even though the reduction of tobacco use is the raison d'ê ;tre of the regulations. In other words, the FDA is forced to contend that the very evil it seeks to combat is a "benefit to health." This is implausible.

The FDA's conception of safety is also incompatible with the FDCA's misbranding provision. Again, §352(j) provides that a product is "misbranded" if "it is dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof." According to the FDA's understanding, a product would be "dangerous to health," and therefore misbranded under §352(j), when, in comparison to leaving the product on the market, a ban would not produce "adverse health consequences" in aggregate. Quite simply, these are different inquiries. Although banning a particular product might be detrimental to public health in aggregate, the product could still be "dangerous to health" when used as directed. Section 352(j) focuses on dangers to the consumer from use of the product, not those stemming from the agency's remedial measures.

Consequently, the analogy made by the FDA and the dissent to highly toxic drugs used in the treatment of various cancers is unpersuasive. See 61 Fed. Reg. 44413 (1996); post, at 17 (opinion of Breyer, J.). Although "dangerous" in some sense, these drugs are safe within the meaning of the Act because, for certain patients, the therapeutic benefits outweigh the risk of harm. Accordingly, such drugs cannot properly be described as "dangerous to health" under 21 U. S. C. §352(j). The same is not true for tobacco products. As the FDA has documented in great detail, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are an unsafe means to obtaining any pharmacological effect.

The dissent contends that our conclusion means that "the FDCA requires the FDA to ban outright `dangerous' drugs or devices," post, at 14, and that this is a "perverse" reading of the statute, id., at 14, 21. This misunderstands our holding. The FDA, consistent with the FDCA, may clearly regulate many "dangerous" products without banning them. Indeed, virtually every drug or device poses dangers under certain conditions. What the FDA may not do is conclude that a drug or device cannot be used safely for any therapeutic purpose and yet, at the same time, allow that product to remain on the market. Such regulation is incompatible with the FDCA's core objective of ensuring that every drug or device is safe and effective.

Considering the FDCA as a whole, it is clear that Congress intended to exclude tobacco products from the FDA's jurisdiction. A fundamental precept of the FDCA is that any product regulated by the FDA -- but not banned -- must be safe for its intended use. Various provisions of the Act make clear that this refers to the safety of using the product to obtain its intended effects, not the public health ramifications of alternative administrative actions by the FDA. That is, the FDA must determine that there is a reasonable assurance that the product's therapeutic benefits outweigh the risk of harm to the consumer. According to this standard, the FDA has concluded that, although tobacco products might be effective in delivering certain pharmacological effects, they are "unsafe" and "dangerous" when used for these purposes. Consequently, if tobacco products were within the FDA's jurisdiction, the Act would require the FDA to remove them from the market entirely. But a ban would contradict Congress' clear intent as expressed in its more recent, tobacco-specific legislation. The inescapable conclusion is that there is no room for tobacco products within the FDCA's regulatory scheme. If they cannot be used safely for any therapeutic purpose, and yet they cannot be banned, they simply do not fit.

B.

In determining whether Congress has spoken directly to the FDA's authority to regulate tobacco, we must also consider in greater detail the tobacco-specific legislation that Congress has enacted over the past 35 years. At the time a statute is enacted, it may have a range of plausible meanings. Over time, however, subsequent acts can shape or focus those meanings. The "classic judicial task of reconciling many laws enacted over time, and getting them to `make sense' in combination, necessarily assumes that the implications of a statute may be altered by the implications of a later statute." United States v. Fausto, 484 U. S., at 453. This is particularly so where the scope of the earlier statute is broad but the subsequent statutes more specifically address the topic at hand. As we recognized recently in United States v. Estate of Romani, "a specific policy embodied in a later federal statute should control our construction of the [earlier] statute, even though it ha[s] not been expressly amended." 523 U. S., at 530-531.

Congress has enacted six separate pieces of legislation since 1965 addressing the problem of tobacco use and human health. See supra, at 14. Those statutes, among other things, require that health warnings appear on all packaging and in all print and outdoor advertisements, see 15 U. S. C. §§1331, 1333, 4402; prohibit the advertisement of tobacco products through "any medium of electronic communication" subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), see §§1335, 4402(f); require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report every three years to Congress on research findings concerning "the addictive property of tobacco," 42 U. S. C. §290aa-2(b)(2); and make States' receipt of certain federal block grants ...


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