Federal Regulation of Tobacco

​The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated tobacco products since 2009.
Currently, the FDA regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, "roll-your-own" tobacco and smokeless tobacco products. However, the law allows the FDA to extend its authority to regulate other tobacco products, including cigars and pipe tobacco. On May 10, 2016, FDA published a Final Rule to extend the Agency’s authority to regulate other tobacco products, including cigars and e-vapor products.
Implementation of regulations is occurring over time. Some regulations went into effect in 2009 while others require the FDA to take action through rule-making, which generally involves public comment and scientific review.

General Provisions
Among other things, the law:
  • Prohibited cigarettes with characterizing flavors other than menthol and tobacco.
  • Banned product descriptors such as “light,” “mild” and “low tar” unless expressly authorized by the FDA.
  • ​Provided the FDA authority to do more to prevent minors from using tobacco products.
  • Changed the language of smokeless tobacco product health warnings and enlarged their size.
  • Required the development of graphic health warnings for cigarette packaging and advertising to accompany new text warnings. 
  • ​Required the establishment of good manufacturing practices for tobacco product and provided the FDA authority to inspect tobacco product manufacturing and other facilities.
  • ​Required tobacco companies to report ingredients to the FDA.
  • Required the FDA to publish a list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) in tobacco products and tobacco smoke and establish testing and reporting requirements for tobacco manufacturers.
  • Requires the FDA to communicate HPHC information submitted by tobacco manufacturers in a way that is understandable and not misleading to the public. According to the FDA, it is evaluating the data received and studying how to communicate the information to consumers.
  • Imposed new restrictions on the advertising, promotion, sale and distribution of tobacco products.​
  • Recognized that any advertising and promotional restrictions cannot violate the First Amendment.​​ 
  • ​​​Provided the FDA authority to regulate nicotine yields and to reduce or eliminate harmful smoke constituents or harmful ingredients.
  • Established a tobacco product scientific advisory committee. 
  • ​​​Provides the FDA authority to mandate changes in the design of tobacco products.
  • Establishes standards for products that could potentially reduce the harm caused by tobacco products and to define the appropriate ways to communicate about these products.