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Gottlieb praises FDA deeming regs (not vaping) for 2016 decline in teen smoking

When Donald Trump first tapped Scott Gottlieb to head the FDA, many in the vaping industry were hopefully optimistic.  Who better to help overturn aggressively anti-vaping FDA deeming regulations than a man who was once a major financial investor in the e-cigarette company KURE?  But in a press release of June 15, Gottlieb seems to be singing a different tune than previously anticipated.

On that same day, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report which documents a substantial decrease in teen smoking and e-cig usage.  In the past five years, teen smoking rates have dropped by half, from 15.8 percent in 2011 to only 8 percent in 2016.


Meanwhile, the report also confirms a dramatic decline in teen vaping from the previous year, plummeting from 16 percent in 2015 to a mere 11.3 percent in 2016.  Many e-cig advocates found the statistics contained inside the CDC’s 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey to be definitive proof that debunks the often-cited theory that vaping is a gateway to teen smoking.

However, in his press release of the same day, Scott Gottlieb seemingly credits the FDA deeming regulations – not the vaping industry - and their increased stronghold on e-cig retailers for the steep declines.

“Another pillar of our efforts is to make sure retailers understand and take seriously their responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children. In particular, the FDA has issued more than 4,000 warning letters to brick and mortar and online retailers for selling e-cigarettes, cigars, or hookah tobacco to minors since new youth access restrictions went into effect in August 2016.”
“We plan to build on these vital efforts to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.”

R Street Institute slams Gottlieb

To be fair, Gottlieb’s press release also gives a portion of the credit to a program called The Real Cost campaign which claims to have helped over 350,000 kids remain smoke-free since its launching in 2014.  However, the political “think tank” R Street Institute wonders is these claims are completely unfounded since no evidence proving a connection between the campaign and the falling teen smoking rates has been made public.

R Street also slams Gottlieb for not crediting the vaping industry for the rapid decline in teen smoking. 

“Despite substantial evidence in federally sponsored surveys in the United States and abroad showing that remarkable reductions in teen and adult smoking have been concurrent with the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, the FDA announcement makes no reference to the possibility that much, if not most, of the recent reductions in teen smoking may be attributable to e-cigarettes.”

There are numerous scientific studies which support the stance that vaping is not a gateway to teen smoking – and the CDC statistics now seem to confirm the mountains of scientific research.  So why is the new FDA Chief still seemingly crediting Obama-era FDA deeming regulations when Gottlieb was appointed by a GOP President Trump? 

Is FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb pro-vaping or anti-vaping?

While having an FDA Commissioner with ties to the KURE company sounds like a huge positive for the vaping industry, Gottlieb has other, much stronger ties to other “communities,” as well.  Gottlieb has reportedly received more than $400,000 in financial payments from Big Pharma companies between the years of 2013 and 2015 alone. Meanwhile, his Boss, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tom Price, is notoriously in the pocket of Big Pharma.  He’s allegedly made millions from inside-information and secret stock tips provided by Big Pharma insiders. 

Is FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb pro-vaping or anti-vaping?  In the end, it might not even matter.  In his confirmation hearings, Gottlieb agreed to recuse himself from all decisions related to vaping because of his prior involvement with KURE.  Therefore, if Trump and Price tell Gottlieb to jump, Gottlieb’s best and only possible response might be to simply ask, “How high?”


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