Big Pharma, Mitch Zeller, and the FDA e-cig regulations: Follow the money
When the FDA e-cig regulations were first announced on May 5, 2016, many retailers and manufacturers were completely unaware of the significant role that Big Pharma played in their creation. As far back as the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies were already well aware of the many health benefits of electronic vaping devices. Companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Squibb quickly determined that the delivery of prescription medications would be cheaper and more immediately effective when injected through these devices.
At the same time, Big Pharma also successfully predicted that e-cigs would become even more popular among smokers, especially those who were trying to quit. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline already offered Nicorette Gum as a smoking cessation method. Meanwhile, “The Patch” by Big Pharma’s Johnson & Johnson was also raking in big bucks. So when the Williamson Tobacco Corporation accused the FDA of overstepping its authority to regulate tobacco products in 1998, Big Pharma was watching.
FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation
The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The FDA argued that nicotine was a “drug,” and cigarettes and any other electronic delivery system for nicotine fell under the jurisdiction of the FDA. The Supreme Court concluded that this was not the initial intent behind the law, and gave the win to Brown and Williamson.
In light of this devastating loss, the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was passed, giving the FDA the official authority to regulate the tobacco industry. It allowed the creation of the Center for Tobacco Products, a new branch of the FDA focused on regulating the marketing and sale of tobacco products. The bill was also publically supported by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an anti-smoking advocacy group that Big Pharma had secretly funneled millions of dollars in contributions over the years. In turn, the ACS would publically promote “The Patch” and Nicorette Gum as the preferred methods to quit smoking.
Mitch Zeller, GlaxoSmithKline, and the FDA e-cig regulations
President Obama now needed to appoint someone to oversee the newly formed branch of the FDA, the Center for Tobacco Products. But he needed someone with the legal expertise to write new laws that were free of potential loopholes. The last thing that anyone wanted was another visit to the U.S. Supreme Court. To ensure that the legal language in any future regulations was foolproof, Obama looked to Big Pharma for a potential department head. He settled on a previous political consultant for Nicorette Gum’s GlaxoSmithKline, a Mr. Mitch Zeller.
It worked. Zeller spearheaded the campaign to write new FDA e-cig regulations that would eliminate the competitive advantage that electronic cigarettes held over “The Patch,” Nicorette Gum, and other similar smoking cessation products. But the new regulations would also need to be marketed to the American Public in such a way that the typical voter would somehow view e-cigs as at least as deadly as traditional tobacco cigarettes, if not more. Who better to do this than anti-smoking advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society?
Big Pharma and the War on Vaping
The War on Vaping has been a politically calculated series of maneuvers that spans the past twenty years or more. It involves Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and several other high-power organizations with very deep pockets and decades of already established political connections. Meanwhile, the vaping industry is still relatively young. It hasn’t had to the time “buy” any political officials on its behalf.
In fact, nearly 99% of all e-cigs and vaping devices were introduced to the market after February 15, 2007, less than ten years ago. (Coincidentally, this is the very same predicate date of the newly announced FDA e-cig regulations.) If the vaping and e-cig industries want to win the War on Vaping, they may need to learn how to play dirty, just like Mitch Zeller, GlaxoSmithKline, the entire Big Pharma industry, and even the American Cancer Society.