FDA Chief Names King as Head of Center for Tobacco Products

Brian King / Credit: FDA

Brian King will replace Mitch Zeller as head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). He will take over the position on July 3 after spending more than a decade at the Centers for Disease Control.

King was most recently the Deputy Director for Research Translation in the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“After a robust executive search, I have selected Dr. Brian A. King as FDA’s new Center for Tobacco Products Director,” Califf tweeted. “Dr. King brings extensive and impressive expertise in tobacco prevention and control and has broad familiarity with FDA from his more than 10-year tenure at CDC.”

King will take over from Michele Mital, who is serving as the acting director following Zeller’s retirement in April. Mital has served as the deputy director of CTP since 2018.

The move comes just days after the FDA submitted a status report for products that currently have a premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) under review. The regulatory agency states that it expects to have resolved 63 percent of the applications set out in its original priority by June 30, 2022, and 72 percent of the applications in its original priority set by the end of this year. However, the agency does not expect to complete its review of timely submitted applications until June, 2023.

During a House subcommittee meeting after the release of the report, Califf said the agency needs more resources to speed up its review of e-cigarettes and is avoiding making hasty decisions that could incite lawsuits from the industry.

“This is an industry that has amazing capabilities on the legal front,” Califf said. “If we make one single error in the process, we can be set back for years in these applications.”

Many vaping industry leaders say they are discouraged by the announcement and that “there is no longer any hope for flavored products other than tobacco.”

Matt Meyers, the controversial leader of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and an anti-nicotine advocate, called King a “legend” and an “icon.”

In his role at the CDC, King was responsible for providing scientific leadership and technical expertise to CDC/OSH, the lead federal agency for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control. King joined the CDC in 2010 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, before which he worked as a Research Affiliate in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. During his time at Roswell Park, his primary research focus related to tobacco prevention and control.

King has worked for over 15 years to provide sound scientific evidence to inform tobacco control policy and to effectively communicate this information to key stakeholders, including decision makers, the media, and the general public.

He has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles pertaining to tobacco prevention and control, was a contributing author to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, was the lead author of CDC’s 2014 update to the evidence-based state guide, “Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs,” and was the senior associate editor of the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report, “E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults” and the 2020 Surgeon General’s Report, “Smoking Cessation.”

He was also the Senior Official for CDC’s emergency response to the 2019 outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

King holds a PhD and MPH in Epidemiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. King will replace Zeller who retired in April. There has not been an official announcement from the FDA.