Ned Sharpless recently became the acting FDA Commissioner, a move which has many in the vaping community worried about the future.
The debate over vaping has become incredibly complicated. Governments the world over attempt to hone in on the proper way to regulate e-cigarettes. Things can get even more tricky within a given country when officials clash over the path forward. The US, for example, has an intricate regulatory system which sees states and the federal government often fight over who gets to decide legality. This battle is nothing new, but it may soon get even more tumultuous, as fear continues to grow over acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless’s plans.
When former Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced he’d be leaving his post, it sent huge waves through the entire vaping industry. Making matters worse, his decision came right during the FDA’s push toward a nation-wide e-liquid flavor ban, a move vapers around the country are fighting against. Anti-vapers applauded the decision as a significant step toward protecting the youth while vaping supporters instead pointed to a massive pile of peer-reviewed evidence proving e-cigarettes have incredible harm reduction and smoking cessation value. We’ll just have to wait and see what Dr. Sharpless’s promotion means for the continued success and viability of the vaping industry.
Commissioner Ned Sharpless
Dr. Ned (Norman) Sharpless has been a respected member of the public health community for a long time now. He comes to the FDA after years with the National Cancer Institute, where he built a reputation for being one of the nation’s leading experts in cancer treatment and prevention. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and boss of the FDA Chief, Alex Azar, called Sharpless a strong leader for the FDA with a deep scientific knowledge base. His first move as FDA Commissioner was to extend the comment period for the controversial deeming rules. The move was actually one of the last set into motion by Commissioner Gottlieb, but Commissioner Sharpless formally introduced it. Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t as bright as his first move might suggest. In fact, experts believe he will do little more than continue the crusade against vaping seen under Dr. Gottlieb.
Given what Sharpless has gone on the record to say about vaping, and it’s hard to imagine him being much of a friend for the industry. Not only has his team made it clear they plan on continuing any investigations and policies implemented by Commissioner Gottlieb, but they may actually get more intense under Sharpless. For instance, experts believe Sharpless is in a prime position to speed up the controversial deeming rules, which would force vaping companies to meet the same administrative requirements as Big Tobacco companies when introducing any new product. These unpopular rules, which were first introduced under the Obama administration, were postponed until 2022 by Commissioner Gottlieb, but now it seems the FDA is ready to speed things up again.
Outside Studies On Vaping
It’s a real shame to see vaping so unfairly targeted by legislators and public health officials. When they first hit the scene, we had no evidence to indicate if they’re safer than smoking, but this is far from the case now. In fact, since at least 2015, we’ve known vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking thanks to a comprehensive report published by Public Health England. In the years since we’ve gotten a lot more research proving the same harm reduction value. For example, a report published a few months back concluded cigarette smoke has about 93% more toxicants than e-liquid vapor. But the genuinely game-changing results came from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences, which found the excess lifetime cancer risk of a smoker is about 57,000 times higher than a demographically similar vaper.
But it’s not just general harm reduction which vaping provides. We also have peer-reviewed evidence indicating it may be the single best smoking cessation tool at our disposal. A team of researchers from the University of Louisville tested all the most common smoking cessation methods and concluded e-cigarettes are even more likely to work than anything else, including prescription drugs. However, for many, the biggest reason to fight back against vaping is the supposed impact they’re having on teens. Luckily a study of over 60,000 students found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up a vaporizer more than once or twice. This means even fewer could possibly be ending up smokers due to the impact of e-cigarettes.
Only time will truly tell if this turns into a significant problem for the vaping industry. Depending on how Commissioner Sharpless chooses to proceed, it could be either very good or very bad for the industry. Some experts seem sure things aren’t going to get any better under Sharpless, but given that his position is temporary, it could ultimately still be a good thing. If the next confirmed head of the FDA is more open to the value of vaping, we could actually see things like the nation-wide flavor ban stopped before they really get started. If not, it’s likely only a matter of time before the vaping industry in America is barely recognizable.
Are you worried about the new FDA Commissioner? What’s the most crucial part about vaping to you? How should we be working to support the industry to those around us? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.