After a long fought battle with the vaping industry, Dr. Gottlieb is resigning from his post, leaving plenty of questions unanswered.
There have been few figures in the public health community who have had such a varied experience with the vaping as Dr. Scott Gottlieb. When he was sworn in as the FDA Commissioner nearly two years ago, one of the very first things he did was push back the controversial deeming rules from becoming law until 2022. This allowed manufacturers another five years to meet the new high standards for bringing products to market. Many in the community felt that this was a sign of things to come for the Commissioner, sadly this never came to be. Instead, he spent much of the rest of his tenure on what some experts describe as a “crusade” against vaping.
Making things all the more chaotic was news last week that Dr. Gottlieb would be leaving his post effective next month. While some feel this is the best possible outcome for the vaping industry, others aren’t so sure it’s even good news. The FDA is already on board with most legislators and parent groups in condemning flavored vapes for specifically targeting teens. So it stands to reason the next commissioner will be someone even more dismissive of the harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits of vaping.
Dr. Gottlieb shared a letter with his staff last week addressing the decision. Reports indicate Dr. Gottlieb and White House officials had been in talks for months over the move, with Gottlieb only spending weekdays in D.C., while traveling home every weekend. It seems the time away from his family just became too much, as he made it clear needing to spend more time with them is the only thing that could have dragged him away from his “important work” at the FDA. Several of his superiors, including President Trump and the Head of the Department of Health and Human Services, made posts to Twitter thanking Gottlieb for his time and effort. His sudden retirement is likely to have a massive impact on many industries, not least of which is vaping.
In fact, whoever is chosen to be the next head of the FDA will likely have the most significant impact on vaping when the history books look back on this time. The right leader will understand both the benefits and risks of supporting vaping, meaning misguided regulations such as the impending flavor ban will become irrelevant. This type of change doesn’t take a miracle. Just take the UK for example. They’ve been supporting vaping in their smoking cessation efforts for years now and were recently able to reach an all-time low smoking rate. That being said, if the wrong person is picked, it could very well mean the end of vaping in America as we know it. A game-changing flavor ban is already looking more and more likely, and a stricter leader could push for outright bans like those seen in Australia.
The Case For E-Cigarettes
As with most anti-vapers, the primary argument the FDA has been making in regards to vaping is over their impact on teens. The story goes that by supporting the value of e-cigarettes, we’ll be indicating to teens they’re harmless; Leading many non-smokers into a life of vaping and eventual smoking. Luckily, the large scale evidence we have on this topic strongly suggests things are blown out of proportion. A report of over 60,000 students concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up a vaporizer regularly, let alone switching to smoking. This could be explained thanks to evidence out of the University of Louisville. Researchers wanted to test the success of different smoking cessation tools and methods to determine the best ones. After collecting all their data, it was clear vaping outperformed every other method, including popular prescription drugs.
You gain an even more evident picture of what’s at stake when looking at the harm reduction value of vaping. As far back as 2015, we’ve known that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. This was a significant discovery at the time, but these days we get that sort of result all the time. In fact, as recently as December we got a report which found cigarette smoke has 93% more toxicants than e-liquid vapor. However, the extent of the harm reduction value isn’t entirely clear until you see the report which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is approximately 57,000 times lower than with demographically similar smokers.
The nightmare scenario of a “make or break” year for the vaping industry is quickly becoming a reality. Things are only going to get a lot more hectic with Gottlieb’s retirement, making plenty of vapers anxious about the coming months. The next head of the FDA will likely decide how we move forward at this critical juncture. Unfortunately, that could easily mean things are about to get a whole lot worse for the vaping industry. However, if we use the time we have to express to our legislators how important and valuable vaping has been for us, it will be much harder for the new FDA Commissioner to swoop in and ban them.
Does it come as a surprise that Dr. Gottlieb is resigning? What kind of impact will this have on the industry in your opinion? How have you successfully taught others about the value of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.