The FDA shakeup could stall e-cigarette regulations

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s sudden resignation yesterday has public health experts worried that progress on e-cigarette regulations could stall, or even stop.

The news comes just a few days after Gottlieb reportedly brought a proposal for e-cigarette flavoring restrictions to the White House, according to Axios. His resignation — just as his agency was stepping up regulations — is worrying for people closely tracking the future of tobacco control. “I don’t think that anyone knows for sure what this means,” says Desmond Jenson, an attorney with the Public Health Law Center at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, says in an email to The Verge. “It doesn’t feel like it will be good news.”

Gottlieb leaves behind a mixed legacy when it comes to tobacco regulations. Earlier in his time at the FDA, he delayed the deadline for when e-cigarette manufacturers had to apply for the agency’s permission to stay on the market. That extended the time products could stay on shelves largely unregulated. But after Juul hit headlines because of the device’s growing popularity with underage vapers, the FDA began increasing pressure on the e-cigarette industry to keep kids from vaping. In November 2018, for example, Gottlieb announced plans to limit sales of nicotine juice in kid-friendly flavors by banning them in stores without strict age restrictions.

Under Gottlieb, the FDA has also taken early steps to ban menthol in traditional tobacco products. (Menthol is a flavoring known to lure in kids that’s been especially marketed to communities of color.) And in July 2017, Gottlieb announced plans to cut the nicotine in cigarettes and started the long road to regulation in March 2018, but there hasn’t been significant progress since . “A lot of what Commissioner Gottlieb has done is start the wheels moving on proposals, rather than actually putting any rules and regulations in place,” says Micah Berman, a professor of public health and law at the Ohio State University.



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