Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and consistently the most competent person in the Trump administration, just sent a clear message to the vaping industry: He’s not tolerating its nonsense.
The FDA, Gottlieb announced Tuesday, has uncovered dozens of legal violations in the sale of e-cigarette products to teenagers through regular and online retailers. The agency has already issued 40 warning letters and has requested that Juul Labs, a popular e-cig brand, submit information to help figure out why its products have been so appealing to young people.
Hallelujah. In cracking down on e-cigarette sales, Gottlieb is doing more than just enforcing the age restriction the FDA instituted in 2016. He is making clear where he stands in the raging debate about e-cigarettes and their impact on public health.
Vaping advocates will likely respond to Gottlieb’s announcement with outrage. They will remind us that e-cigarettes are much safer than combustible tobacco products.
Be skeptical of this defense. Research consistently shows that e-cigarettes increases the risk of young people being introduced to tobacco products, as this recent analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies shows.
In fact, one study projects that for every one person who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking in 2015, another 81 young people will eventually become daily cigarette users through e-cigarette use that year.
If the reality turns out to be as dire as researchers suggest, decades of steady progress to reduce tobacco use among young people will be imperiled. Any honest assessment of vaping industry practices would conclude that it’s trying to build a customer base of young adults to consume addictive, nicotine-based products.
This is a public health threat, plain and simple. Gottlieb is right to hold the vaping industry accountable and to make sure these products stay out of the hands of minors.
The Washington Post