Sweeping e-cigarette restrictions proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have drawn sharp condemnation from Republican lawmakers, who say the agency’s efforts to prevent children and teens from vaping are “un-Republican” and “troubling.”
Clamping down on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other tobacco products has become a major focus for FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who proposed plans to limit the sale of flavored e-cigarette products to in-person retail locations where proof of age would be required to buy.
Under Dr. Gottlieb’s direction, the FDA also seeks to ban menthol-flavored conventional cigarettes and flavored cigars.
The proposals come on the heels of recent data showing a lack of regulation has allowed vaping to swell to “epidemic” proportions among U.S. teens and children. Since last year, e-cigarette usage has increased 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle-schoolers.
Dr. Gottlieb, whose record at the FDA and in private commercial enterprises and organizations in prior years was staunchly conservative, last year embraced the e-cigarette industry’s products as a means to help adults quit regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.
He changed his stance, however, when government and medical data showed that e-cigarettes aren’t effective in helping the vast majority of adults to quit smoking. Instead, they are creating a new generation of nicotine addicts at a time when tobacco use among U.S. adults and teens plunged to record lows.
“These data shock my conscience,” Gottlieb said of the youth vaping epidemic when he announced the restrictions. “These increases must stop.”
According to The Hill, Dr. Gottlieb’s plans to curb e-cigarette sales shocked and dismayed Republican lawmakers, who expressed more concern about potential economic losses and regulation than the harm to public health.
“It is troubling … that an administration that pledges to put America first is targeting legal, American-made products instead of focusing its attention on states that flout federal drug laws,” Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from the tobacco-rich state of North Carolina, said in a statement.
“I am concerned the FDA’s proposed actions could limit adult Americans’ access to e-cigarette products that help them quit a more dangerous habit. I am also concerned about regulatory overreach,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
According to The Hill, Marc Scheineson, a lawyer and former FDA associate commissioner who lobbies for a flavored cigar company, said, “By not trusting any company, ascribing to them sinister motives, that’s raising eyebrows and is being perceived as unfair and potentially un-Republican.”