The controversy surrounding the recent announcement of the new e-cig regulations is placing the FDA’s Mitch Zeller center stage, but many are beginning to wonder if Zeller is secretly a pro-vaping advocate. Zeller is currently the director of a division of the FDA called the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), and he has been making public statements regarding electronic cigarettes for almost a year, many of which seem to contradict one another.
As recently as June 2014, Zeller’s comments seemed to suggest that electronic cigarettes are a smoking alternative that is infinitely safer than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. But his statements post-May 5 when the new FDA e-cig regulations were first announced seem to be less favorable to the fledgling vaping industry.
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Statements like these seem to support the medical research that tobacco “not the nicotine” is to blame for the higher risks of cancer and other disease. And electronic cigarettes are 100% tobacco-free. Although Zeller does recommend further research into the role of nicotine, Zeller’s June 2014 statements seem to side with the vaping industry. Even some of his more recent statements support his original point of view.
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The basis of the controversy over the FDA e-cig regulations lies with the million-dollar PMTA price tag that will now be required for all electronic cigarette products. If Zeller is such a strong advocate for e-cigs, then why does he support such potentially devastating federal oversight that may essentially wipe out the entire vaping industry? Retailers do not have the deep pockets of Big Tobacco, so why not give them a break and create a new, less expensive, vaping-specific application process?
By requiring the vaping industry to follow the same costly application process as the infinitely deadlier tobacco industry, Zeller appears to be waffling. But in the world of politics, and Zeller, like it or not, is a politician now, you have to eventually take a stand. Zeller seems to have made his choice. The only question now is, how far is he willing to go?
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Just days ago, Minnesota voted to consider a ban on the sale of all flavored e-liquids statewide. If this legislation passes both houses of the state congress and is signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, then this very website, which is based in Minnesota, will essentially have to relocate or close up shop. However, many in the vaping industry also fear that Zeller’s next step will be to follow the example of Minnesota and institute a federal ban on all flavored e-juices. He may even push to raise the minimum purchase age to 21-years nationwide.
The only glimmer of hope seems to come from Zeller’s pro-vaping statements. Is there a small window of opportunity to change his mind? If the vaping community is clever enough to continuously express their outrage over the new FDA e-cig regulations is a productive manner, perhaps.
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