Gottlieb’s Grotty Games

Posted 19th June 2018 by Dave Cross
Hopes were high for evidence-based policy from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when Scott Gottlieb MD to on the top job. He had spoken out in favour of harm reduction and the mood music was distinctly positive. Now, with states facing a massive financial black hole due to falling tobacco revenues, he appears to be replacing science with fantasy.

Gottlieb has taken to social media to deliver a shifting position statement. The latest outburst reads as though he would rather have teens smoke than switch to vaping, and intimates that further scare stories about a perceived problem could impact adult vapers/smokers hoping to switch.

“Today I spoke to leading experts in tobacco regulatory science,” he begins. “We’re at a moment of extraordinary promise for tobacco regulation. Research being done under the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program is crucial to the FDA’s work to improve public health.”

Tobacco regulatory science? We have no idea.

“No child should use any tobacco product. Even if kids are using e-cigs instead of cigarettes – and that migration in part accounts for the decline in youth cigarette use – that’s still not an acceptable trade” - Gottlieb

“As we evaluate the best ways to regulate tobacco products, based on scientific evidence as well as the law, the FDA depends on rigorous regulatory science to inform our tobacco policies and save lives by addressing the addiction crisis in this country.”

He can say it depends on science as many times as he wants, but it appears to be driven by money and charlatanism.

“Potentially less harmful tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems, must be put through an appropriate series of regulatory gates. Good regulatory science is critical to fully evaluating their risks and maximising potential benefits.”

Potentially – it’s almost as if Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians didn’t exist.

“If more adults can fully transition from cigarettes to electronic nicotine delivery systems, we might be able to significantly reduce tobacco-related morbidity/mortality. There are still questions about this transition that I hope research can help answer.”

The only people with genuine questions about vaping leading to smoking (despite declining adult smoking and teen vaping/smoking rates) are trolls and those dependent upon tobacco tax money.

“If we want to preserve e-cigs as a possible option for adult smokers and believe that fully transitioning them to these products can reduce tobacco-related morbidity/mortality, then we must ensure kids aren’t initiating on and becoming addicted to them.”

So, if California persists with its ‘marketing at teens’ line, he’s going to clamp down on adult products?

“No child should use any tobacco product. Even if kids are using e-cigs instead of cigarettes – and that migration in part accounts for the decline in youth cigarette use – that’s still not an acceptable trade.”

Teens who smoke are smokers. Teens who switch to vaping are using a harm reduction tool that isn’t a tobacco product because it contains no tobacco. This isn’t acceptable? He would prefer they carried on smoking?

“No child should have any sexual activity. Even if kids are having sex with condoms instead of unprotected sex – and that migration in part accounts for the decline in youth unprotected sex rates – that’s still not an acceptable trade” – Farsalinos

Gottlieb finishes off: “We’ve launched a campaign to target youth access to e-cigs, and retailers & manufacturers that make that access possible. Additional enforcement actions against retailers were announced Friday. And we have both civil and criminal work underway in this area.”

Dr Farsalinos was quick to respond and damn Gottlieb’s announcement. “No child should have any sexual activity. Even if kids are having sex with condoms instead of unprotected sex – and that migration in part accounts for the decline in youth unprotected sex rates – that’s still not an acceptable trade,” wrote Dr Farsalinos. “Bad choice of wording (‘acceptable’) by the FDA Commissioner. The word ‘ideal’ would have been much more appropriate. Hopefully someday we will all live in an ideal world.”

Clive Bates added: “Unacceptable on what ethical basis? The FDA surely recognises the reality-based world of youth doing risky things, whatever the FDA wants? When kids who would otherwise have smoked take to vaping instead, there is a clear public health benefit. Preventing that causes harm.”

“There is something disturbing about this argument, beyond the obvious indifference to the health and wellbeing of young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds.  It’s an attempt to simplify the world by declaring a moral posture rather than deal with the world as it is,” he continued. “And why do this? Because the FDA’s favoured vaping policies - e.g. banning e-liquid flavours and bullying JUUL Vapor - are impossible to justify if ecigs are reducing youth smoking. So that potential benefit can’t be recognised.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker