Food and Drug Administration v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation

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FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 1, 1999
Decided March 21, 2000
Full case name Food and Drug Administration, et al. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., et al.
Citations 529 U.S. 120 (more)
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority O'Connor, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas
Dissent Breyer, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg

FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120 (2000) is an important case in the development of American administrative law.

Legal principle[edit]

The scope of authority held by an agency is determined by the agency's organic statute. Where Congress repeatedly denies an agency the power to regulate a particular area, and develops a comprehensive regulatory scheme outside the control of the agency, the agency may not regulate that area.

Note: The approach in this case balances the approach of US v. Southwestern Cable Co.. Whereas Southwestern Cable allowed an agency to regulate areas not explicitly contemplated by the statute when necessary to fulfill its ultimate goal even when legislative efforts to gain such power failed, FDA does not allow agencies to regulate areas for which Congress has developed a separate statutory scheme.

Facts and procedural posture[edit]

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to regulate tobacco products. Tobacco companies challenged the regulations. The District Court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's claim. The Circuit Court reversed, ruling for the tobacco company.

The Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the Circuit Court's ruling for the tobacco company, ruling that the FDA did not have the power to enact and enforce the regulations in question.

Analysis[edit]

The FDA's authority to regulate came from the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The FDA argued that nicotine was a "drug" and cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "devices" that deliver nicotine to the body within the meaning of the FDCA. Congress had enacted a number of tobacco-specific laws after the FDCA, and the FDA had never exercised any control over tobacco. The Court therefore concluded that Congress did not intend to give the FDA the power to regulate tobacco, and that the regulations were therefore invalid.

Partially as a response to this finding, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which expressly granted the FDA the power to regulate the tobacco industry. The act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009.

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