By Myron Levin, Fair Warning
What are the odds?
In 2009, Congress passed landmark legislation directing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products, aiming to cut the toll from the leading preventable cause of disease and death. Three times since, however, cigarette and e-cigarette companies have filed successful legal challenges to thwart rules intended to make their products less appealing to consumers–and less accessible to kids.
The three cases, which, among other things, have blocked graphic cigarette warning labels and delayed regulation of e-cigarettes for at least a few years, were decided in favor of industry plaintiffs by the same federal judge, Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Leon’s rulings have reflected concern about government overreach, and a tone of deep skepticism about the FDA’s legal positions “Please! This conclusion defies common sense,” he wrote, dismissing one of the agency’s arguments. Given how cases are normally assigned, the fact that Leon was assigned all three is extraordinary—and extraordinarily good luck for the industry.