A New Vape Agency for America?

Posted 11th February 2020 by Dave Cross
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been trying and failing to regulate alternative nicotine products like vaping for years. According to documents released yesterday, it looks as though time is possibly up for the agency. Plans to set up a new dedicated tobacco products agency forms part of the Trump Administration’s budget proposals for 2020.

The White House’s budget request highlights the FDA’s abject failure to get to grips with vaping and tobacco harm reduction. While forward thinking nations such as the UK implemented a measured approach, the USA failed to adopt any sensible regulations and the FDA only managed to obtain the trigger phrase “teen epidemic” from marketing focus groups.

The budget text states: "A new agency with the singular mission on tobacco and its impact on public health would have greater capacity to respond strategically to the growing complexity of new tobacco products. In addition, this reorganization would allow the FDA Commissioner to focus on its traditional mission of ensuring the safety of the Nation’s food and medical products supply.”

Idiotic public information campaigns dominated the FDA’s recent action, all centred on whipping up fear of the “teen epidemic”, in all probability at the behest of ex-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as he sought to appease his future employers in the pharmaceutical industry. Then it banned flavours other than menthol and tobacco for closed vape systems.

Unsurprisingly, those who have benefited financially from the FDA’s ineptitude aren’t happy at the proposal. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Matthew Myers is quoted as saying: “It has taken a long time for the FDA Centre for Tobacco Products to build up the staff, legal expertise and structure to do the job. This proposal is yet another giveaway to the tobacco and e-cigarette industry from an Administration that recently sided with the industry over kids by leaving thousands of flavoured e-cigarettes on the market.”

American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley commented: “This proposal by the Trump Administration could be a signal that HHS Secretary Alex Azar is serious about streamlining the regulatory process for vaping products to keep thousands of small businesses from going under in the coming months. Accomplishing this will require a lot of hard work and dedication, so it would be helpful to have someone new whose sole job is to focus on tobacco and nicotine regulation. Of course, what will truly matter is who is in charge and what their priorities and beliefs are, and that is still to be determined.”

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Foundation for a Smokefree World’s Charles Gardner said: “Can a new agency do any better?  For years, nicotine vaping consumers and the independent vape industry have been calling on the FDA to set safety standards for devices and liquids.  The UK does this, so it’s a puzzle to me why the US can’t. Thanks to FDA’s August 8 2016 deeming regulations, FDA’s role has been to freeze product innovation, preventing manufacturers from making their own safety improvements. And the FDA has done a poor job removing products that entered the market illegally after 2016.

The May 12 PMTA deadline, if enforced, will cause a massive consolidation of the vaping industry.  Only a few big companies will remain, and most of those will be big tobacco.  It is a puzzle to me why so many anti-tobacco advocates want this.  I guarantee big tobacco does. Finally, I wonder how the new FDA Commissioner will feel about losing 1,000 employees and possibly losing control over the $713 million in user fees that FDA receives every year from big tobacco companies.”

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