President Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled for a confirmation vote in a Senate committee today. If the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee recommends the nomination of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the full Senate is expected to approve him.
Many vapers are eager to have Gottlieb in office, and hope that he will intervene to prevent the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) from pursuing the deadlines in the agency’s 2016 deeming regulations, which will lead to the destruction of the independent vapor industry.
Although he was careful wording answers to the senators in his confirmation hearing, there are some indications that Gottlieb may be sympathetic to the vapor industry.
He has written at least one article that showed an understanding of the concept of reduced-risk nicotine products, and the problems of getting the FDA to approve them for sale.
He has worked at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that is generally pro-vaping.
He used to sit on the board of directors for Kure, a franchise-based vaping retailer. He resigned from the board last year, but maintains an investment in the company, which he says he will sell if he becomes FDA commissioner.
The Kure connection bothers anti-nicotine activists, of course, and Gottlieb promised to recuse himself from e-cigarette decisions until a year had passed since his board tenure. That would be just a month from now. But vaping opponents want him to separate himself from decisions on vape-related matters until a year after he sells his investments in the company.
“Kure markets e-cigarettes in flavors that could appeal to kids like cotton candy and sugar cookie, and they also present e-cigarettes as a fun recreational activity,’’ Vince Willmore, vice president at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Bloomberg. “Those are the kinds of practices that have made e-cigarettes popular among young people, and so the practices of this company are cause for concern.’’
At his confirmation hearing, Washington Senator Patty Murray asked Gottlieb if he was committed to addressing the “public health risk” of kids using flavored “tobacco products.”
“I’m going to make sure that we appropriately implement the law,’’ Gottlieb answered. He said that while vaping may be less harmful than smoking, and that Congress intended for vaping products to be available, he will not “countenance a rise in adolescent smoking rates.’’
Referring to flavored products (which include small cigars as well as e-liquid), Gottlieb testified said he knew there “is a line here somewhere. And I don’t know where that line gets drawn. I think that that line needs to get drawn by people who are expert in evaluating that science and I want to support them.’’
He could leave the policy as is, allowing the FDA to continue its slow-motion demolition of every small independent vape company. Or he could shift course, and encourage low-risk products that can help smokers. Vapers want to know, where will he draw that line?