FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 6 (2000)

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

Opinion of the Court

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court. 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 unam-College of Chest Physicians by Raymond D. Cotton; and for Public Citizen, Inc., et al. by Allison M. Zieve, Alan B. Morrison, and David C. Vladeck.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Pacific Legal Foundation by Anne M. Hayes and M. Reed Hopper; for the Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc., by Kenneth S. Geller; and for the Washington Legal Foundation et al. by Daniel J. Popeo and Richard A. Samp.


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