A few months after formally leaving his post, Dr. Scott Gottlieb has some reflections on his time as the leader of the FDA.
Vaping regulations are constantly changing across the country and world. It used to be somewhat understandable, given just how new of an invention they were, but these days we have plenty of research backing vaporizers. Regardless, most legislators and public health agencies have decided to err on the side of caution and go to great lengths to restrict vaping access and options. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb had a very complicated relationship with the vaping industry over his tenure, but recently he’s lamented “striking the wrong balance” on vaping, believing they should have gone much harder against them.
Most of the vaping community was unsurprised by Dr. Gottlieb’s comments, as he’s already seen as a negative figure despite having done some distinct good for the community during his time as the head of the FDA. Meanwhile, anti-vapers are applauding his comments and attempting to use them to force more restrictive regulations on the vaping industry. So despite all the peer-reviewed evidence supporting the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of e-cigarettes, Dr. Gottlieb says he would have done things very differently.
During a speech at CNBC’s Healthy Returns conference, Dr. Gottlieb reflected on his time as the FDA Commissioner. He was first nominated by President Trump back in 2017, where he was quickly confirmed to the job. One of the first significant moves he made was actually a major win for the vaping industry when he postponed the Pre-Market Tobacco Application deadline until 2022. This gave lots of people hope about how he would continue to regulate vaping, but those hopes were quickly dashed. Just over a year after postponing the PMTA, Dr. Gottlieb started pursuing an e-liquid flavor ban, which is still in the pipeline now.
During his speech at the Healthy Returns conference, Gottlieb made some waves with his comments. He stood by the decision to delay the PMTA but says one of the worst days he had as Commissioner was when they got reports about increases in teenage vaping. As a result, Dr. Gottlieb now believes he and his team “struck the wrong balance” with vaping regulations, and wishes they had pursued them more heavily. “We’re trying to thread a public health needle here where we preserve some element of the availability of these products for adults while foreclosing them for kids, or at least really dramatically curtailing the availability of kids to access these products.” Despite the difficulty, many experts believe it would be a significant mistake to restrict vaping much further, as it gives a distinct advantage to Big Tobacco with vapers reverting without their preferred options.
Worth The Risk?
It’s fair to ask if the risk presented by vaping is worth it. Luckily we have a growing pile of evidence which makes the robust case that vaping is a potent harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. Going back to 2015, we have a report by Public Health England which concluded e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than continued smoking. More results like this have been found over the years, including a few months back when researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute found the toxicants in vapor are about 93% higher than in tobacco smoke. However, the clearest piece of evidence we have for the harm reduction value of vaping is a report from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is about 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
Once you look past the harm reduction value, there’s still a ton to support about vaping. Evidence suggests not only is vaping an effective smoking cessation tool, but it may actually be the single most useful device we have at our disposal. A report of over 60,000 students concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up a vaporizer more than once or twice. Meaning even fewer could possibly be ending up a smoker because of vaping.
Despite how Dr. Gottlieb feels, vaping is an invaluable tool. While we must work diligently to ensure children don’t have access to them, it would be a tragedy not to allow adult smokers full access either. The PMTA was a major win for the vaping industry, as it allowed us a few more years to get all the red tape sorted out. But if we ever want to end the smoking epidemic once and for all, we simply must utilize all the best tools we have at our disposal, which includes vaping.
Do you agree with Dr. Gottlieb about anything? What’s the most crucial part about vaping for you? How should we teach others around us about the value of vaping? 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.