Despite the failure of the pro-vaping Cole-Bishop Amendment to pass the Senate, the list of vaping supporters in Washington is growing. The new FDA commissioner, who is apparently pro-vaping, has been asked by a Senate chairman to take action to alleviate the burden placed on the vaping industry by Obama era regulations.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb urging him to review the FDA e-cigarette regulations. Gottlieb has already expressed dissatisfaction with the FDA’s regulatory process generally, complaining that it tends to delay the process of getting innovative health products to the market. Johnson has previously written to Vice-President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the issue.
At issue is the FDA’s requirement that e-cigarettes and e-liquid will have to undergo expensive testing in order to be allowed to be sold in the U.S. The law will cover all e-cigarette products that were manufactured since 2007, even though the rule was only passed last year. Vape supporters fear that the testing will not be affordable to all but the wealthiest e-cigarette manufacturers, and could wipe out all others. That would leave smokers who want to switch to the healthier alternative of vaping with few choices. Ironically, the wealthiest companies in the e-cigarette industry now are tobacco companies, so the FDA rules could have the effect of helping Big Tobacco and allowing it to dominate the e-cigarette industry.
Opponents of the FDA e-cigarette regulations are primarily concerned with changing the law to grandfather in all vaping products that were made prior the date the law was passed in 2016. That would save most of the products on the market now. The Cole-Bishop Amendment, which would have accomplished that goal, was positioned to be attached as a rider to the budget bill, but it was tossed out with over 100 other riders. The good news is that Congress did decide to delay the implementation of the FDA vaping rules, which had been set to go into effect in August this year.
Vaping supporters insist that Cole-Bishop is not dead yet. In addition, California congressman Duncan Hunter introduced legislation that would remove e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products if it were passed. Though some vaping proponents are skeptical that such an ambitious goal is likely to be realized soon, the measure has gained much support. Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASSA) supports the bill, and wants to see Cole-Bishop reintroduced as a rider to the 2018 budget.
The vaping community was also encouraged by the firing of anti-vaping Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Acting Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams is a holdover from the Obama administration. President Trump has not yet named a nominee for the position, but due to his own and FDA commissioner Gottlieb’s positions on rolling back government regulations on industry, it is hoped that the next surgeon general will have a more positive view of vaping as a harm-reduction strategy and support the availability of vaping products as an alternative for smokers.
Outspoken conservative activist Grover Norquist is also on the side of vaping, and he has often expressed his belief that vapers represent a large portion of 2016 Trump voters. He warns politicians that vaping is a serious issue with voters and suggests that a pro-vaping position is the wisest choice for politicians seeking public approval.
President Trump himself is not known to have expressed an opinion on e-cigarettes, but his desire to roll back regulations and ease restrictions on businesses is seen as a positive. It is unclear why former Surgeon General Murthy was asked to resign, but there are those who believe that his declaration that e-cigarettes present a public health risk may have been part of the reason.