With many legislators looking to the US for a lead on public health policy, the announcement this month that FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb is to resign may have given rise to cautious optimism in the vaping industry. Dr Gottlieb has taken a strong line on vaping during his tenure, in contrast to market deregulation elsewhere during the Trump administration.
Dr Gottlieb’s imminent departure, set for the end of March, has not inspired in him a newly conciliatory outlook. Just last week he branded teen use of pod-based vaping products as ‘rampant’ and an indictor of the market having ‘no redeeming public health value’.
This coincides with Dr Gottlieb’s FDA announcing plans to clamp down on vaping flavours. These products will need to be sold in areas of shops which can’t be accessed by underage customers, effectively meaning many vendors can’t stock them at all.
However, those hoping that Dr Gottlieb’s departure would facilitate something of a sea change in FDA policy are likely to be disappointed.
Joining as acting commissioner is Norman Sharpless, formerly director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Dr Sharpless is an admirer both of Dr Gottlieb and his interventionist policy, having previously used his position at the NCI to highlight youth vaping.
Speaking to Dr Sharpless’ appointment on 12th March, the Department of Health and Human Services said there would be ‘no let-up in the agency’s focus…addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes’.
The changing of the guard at the FDA comes as San Francisco officials mull over a ban on selling vaping products, again citing health fears and underage usage. City Attorney Dennis Herrera attacked the industry’s ‘veneer of harm reduction’, claiming that ‘their product is addiction’.
Those waiting for a softer line in the US may have to wait a while longer.