FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 2 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 120 (2000)


(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., 513 U. S. 561, 569. In addition, 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, e. g., United States v. Estate of Romani, 523 U. S. 517, 530-531. Finally, the court 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. Pp. 131-133.

(b) 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 that remains on the market must be safe and effective for its intended use. See, e. g., 393(b)(2). That is, the potential for inflicting death or physical injury must be offset by the possibility of therapeutic benefit. United States v. Rutherford, 442 U. S. 544, 556. In its rule-making proceeding, the FDA quite exhaustively documented that tobacco products are unsafe, dangerous, and cause great pain and suffering from illness. These findings logically imply that, if tobacco products were "devices" under the FDCA, the FDA would be required to remove them from the market under the FDCA's misbranding, see, e. g., 331(a), and device classification, see, e. g., 360e(d)(2)(A), provisions. In fact, based on such provisions, the FDA itself has previously asserted 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 use. Congress, however, has foreclosed a ban of such products, choosing instead to create a distinct regulatory scheme focusing on the labeling and advertising of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Its express policy is to protect commerce and the national economy while informing consumers about any adverse health effects.


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