Some have called Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s resignation a boon for the e-cigarette industry, which Gottlieb has repeatedly attacked for fueling a surge in teen vaping.
The impact of his abrupt resignation, however, may not be that simple.
Gottlieb in September declared teen e-cigarette use an “epidemic” and threatened to pull products from shelves if things didn’t change. He called in executives from Altria, Juul, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands. In November, Gottlieb said the FDA would pursue an effective ban on convenience stores selling fruity flavors of nicotine.
Gottlieb’s threats pushed Juul, the company he blames for the teen vaping “epidemic,” to halt sales of most of its flavors and shutter its social media accounts. In February, he accused Juul of going back on its word after the San Francisco-based start-up took a $12.8 billion investment from Marlboro maker Altria, and he called the CEOs of both companies to his office.
Despite all of his passion and bluster, Gottlieb wasn’t as tough on the industry as he could have been — or as his successor might be. Although tobacco stocks jumped on the news of his resignation Tuesday, it’s too early to say how Gottlieb’s resignation will affect e-cigarette companies, industry executives told CNBC. They also fear his successor might abandon regulatory efforts altogether, exacerbating youth use and causing Congress to step in.
Gottlieb has come under fire for delaying a 2016 rule that would have allowed the FDA to start removing e-cigarettes from the market this year. It was a move the industry applauded but health groups often often criticized. He avoided directly restricting e-cigarette companies from selling the flavored products he has blamed on a surge in teen use, something lawmakers have pushed.
“He could have [reversed the application extension], he could have tried to pull flavors from the market. So certainly his words were the issue and not always his actions,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a group that lobbies for “sensible” regulation of vaping products.
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