Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration, has criticized the FDA’s handling of tobacco products in the past. He wrote in 2012 that the FDA has neglected its duty to “guide new medical innovations to the market.” As a longtime critic of the FDA’s review culture, Gottlieb now has a chance to change it. Many believe that e-cigarette users could benefit from the changes he could make.
During his confirmation hearing, Gottlieb was called upon to support a ban on flavored e-liquid, but he declined. He responded to questions about flavors like Gummy Bear and Cookies and Cream by saying that there is “a line” to be drawn somewhere, but that it is up to experts in science to determine where. Understanding that many opponents of vaping worry that flavors may encourage kids to take up vaping and then move on to smoking, Gottlieb said that it is still unclear whether that outweighs the possibility that vaping could help smokers to quit and improve their health.
Another fact that makes anti-smokers leery of Gottlieb is that he has financial interest in a vape store franchise, Kure, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Gottlieb has vowed to divest his interests in Kure, but The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has asked him to stay out of any FDA decisions involving e-cigarettes. Gottlieb has said he will recuse himself from any decisions involving Kure specifically, for a period of one year, but CTFK is not satisfied with that.
Others are concerned with the fact that Gottlieb also has close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. According to CNN, Gottlieb has served on the boards of many pharmaceutical companies; include one of the world’s largest, GlaxoSmithKline. Pharmaceutical company lobbyists wasted no time congratulating Gottlieb on his nomination to the FDA post.
Gottlieb has made it clear that he believes in lightened FDA regulations and more focus on getting new medical products on the market. His ties to the pharmaceutical industry could be bad news for the vaping industry and vapers who are hoping the FDA will lighten its regulations on vaping products, especially the current rule that will force all vaping products manufactured since 2007 off the market next year if their manufacturers don’t pay up for testing to get FDA approval. On the other hand, his views on harm reduction for smokers show a positive attitude towards e-cigarettes, as does his refusal to agree to support a ban on flavored e-liquid.