Before Mitch Zeller was appointed by President Obama to the Center for Tobacco Products of the FDA, he was a professional consultant for the major pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Coincidentally, this is the very same Big Pharma company which manufactures and markets several forms of more traditional nicotine replacement therapies, namely “the patch.”
It’s not a big secret that GlaxoSmithKline would love to eradicate the entire vaping and e-cig industry. After all, millions of smokers are now ignoring the patch and switching to vaping as a significantly more effective and infinitely more enjoyable way to quit smoking.
So, how did Mitch Zeller get his job in the first place? This is the very same guy who almost single-handedly created the controversial FDA deeming regulations that threaten to wipe out the entire industry by 2018. And Zeller’s Big Pharma friends like GlaxoSmithKline are poised to become major financial benefactors if the FDA deeming regulations succeed. Obama’s appointment of Zeller seems completely unfair.
Obamacare struggles to pass Congress
In early 2009, Obamacare was limping its way through Congress. Contrary to current popular opinion, Obamacare was not an immediate hit among either Congressional Democrats or Republicans in 2009. Even though the Democrats held a majority in both house of Congress at the time, the healthcare initiative was all but dead by midyear.
Big Pharma did not want to reduce the prices on its portfolio of prescription medications needed to make Obamacare attractive and affordable for the American people. So, companies like GlaxoSmithKline began pressuring political officials on Capitol Hill to vote against the bill. This wasn’t difficult to do because Big Pharma regularly throws millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Congresspersons and Senators on both sides of the aisle every election year.
Congress is essentially bought-and-paid-for by Big Pharma. But President Obama was undeterred. He saw the writing on the wall as the midterm elections approached and the GOP Tea Party Movement was gaining strength.
If he didn’t pass Obamacare immediately, it would never happen. He already knew that the Democratic majority in Congress was in jeopardy of being reversed.
Obama plays Beat the Clock
If Barack Obama wanted to get his Obamacare bill passed before the midterm elections, then he was going to have to make Big Pharma an offer that they couldn’t refuse. Oddly at just this very moment in history, the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was passed, giving the FDA the official authority to regulate the tobacco industry.
It also mandated the creation of a new branch of the FDA - the Center for Tobacco Products. Someone would have to manage this new agency, and Obama was the only one who could make the appointment. So, many political insiders allege that he secretly cut a deal.
Obama agreed to let the GSK whiz kid Mitch Zeller run the Center for Tobacco Products. if Big Pharma would agree to at least temporarily reduce drug prices long enough to get his healthcare bill to pass Congress. The pharmaceutical industry could always raise their drug prices again in a couple of years (which they are doing now, by the way), and Mitch Zeller could enact sweeping regulations that would eradicate the vaping industry in the meantime.
If everything went according to plan, Big Pharma would recoup its lost profits from reduced drug prices by regaining its previous stronghold on the smoking cessation market currently being dominated by the fledgling vaping industry.
It worked. Mitch 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. And the rest, as they say, if history.
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