Mitch Zeller, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, plans to retire in April 2022 after serving in the post since 2013, reports The Washington Post. In a letter to staff, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock praised his work as “invaluable and instrumental” to advancing “numerous historic public health milestones in tobacco regulation.”
A graduate of Dartmouth College and the American University Washington College of Law, Zeller has been working on FDA issues for more than 30 years. He began his career as a public interest attorney in 1982 at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In 1988, Zeller left CSPI to become counsel to the human resources and intergovernmental relations subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ government operations committee, where he conducted oversight of enforcement of federal health and safety laws.
In 1993, Zeller joined the staff of then FDA Commissioner David Kessler. What began as a two-week assignment by Kessler to examine the practices of the tobacco industry led to his serving as associate commissioner and director of the FDA’s first Office of Tobacco Programs. Instrumental in crafting the agency’s 1996 tobacco regulations, Zeller also represented the FDA before Congress, federal and state agencies. Zeller also served as an official U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization working group for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In 2000, Zeller became executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation. His responsibilities there included marketing, communications, strategic partnerships and, in 2002, creating the foundation’s first Office of Policy and Government Relations. That year, Zeller joined PinneyAssociates, where, as senior vice president, he provided strategic planning and communications advice.
He left PinneyAssociates in 2013 to begin his second stint at the FDA.