Published on September 7th, 2016 | by Jimmy Hafrey
Vapers, hold on to your seats because Big Tobacco is coming to the rescue.
Late last week, several news outlets published stories on how various Big Tobacco companies are decrying the so-called F.D.A. “Deeming Rule” on vaping. They claimed that the regulation’s stipulation that all vape products, regardless of when they were introduced into the market, must undergo the PTMA process hinders people’s ability to stop smoking. They’re also claiming that the regulations are hurting small businesses.
While this publication does not dispute these claims and in fact supports them, there is nevertheless a bit of healthy suspicion surrounding the industry’s involvement in trying to push back against the regulations.
The New York Times and The Daily Caller are both reporting on a little-known story that began last year when Altria Group introduced a proposal to Congress leaders to halt the F.D.A. from implementing these regulations. Along with Altria and over 75 pro-tobacco lobbyists, the Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association has also created its own lobbying team to help stop the F.D.A. from enforcing the regulations that include requiring thousands of products to go through the expensive and time-consuming PMTA process.
Altria Group is the parent company of Phillip Morris, the well-known cigarette company, and it’s legislation, which was reportedly introduced into the House verbatim by Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, was aimed squarely at stopping the F.D.A. from decimating the vaping industry.
What’s more striking is the amount of former Congress members who are lobbying in favor of relaxing the vaping regulations, like former Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who had represented Louisiana during her tenure. Now a lobbyist, Landrieu neglected to register as such and has since apologized for the oversight.
But Landrieu is not the only former official or politician to join the fight against the F.D.A. There is at least half a dozen in total that have jumped on the lobbyist bandwagon, including a former senior aide to the Democratic leader of the House, Senator Harry Reader.
So Altria Group, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and the National Tobacco Company have taken on the F.D.A. regulations. The industry is joined by former and current politicians from both sides of the aisle, many of which are currently enjoying contributions from Big Tobacco. And instead of focusing on smoking regulations, the companies are using its influence and wealth to attack these regulations that focus on vaping products and companies.
But the question is this: Why would Big Tobacco want to stop the F.D.A. regulations? At this point, the vaping industry is the only real competition tobacco has in the marketplace. The F.D.A.’s regulations would only serve to help the tobacco industry, so coming out in favor of stopping the vaping regulations strikes up a red flag.
Whatever the reason may be for the new direction Big Tobacco is taking, vapers and the vaping industry are relieved to have some help, even if the F.D.A. is refusing to budge, taking the stance that halting the regulations would be a detriment to public health.
“Companies were free to introduce any product they wanted, make any claim they wanted, and that is how we wound up with a 900 percent increase in high schoolers using e-cigarettes and as well as all these reports of exploding e-cigarette batteries and products that have caused burns and fires and disfigurement,” Mitch Zeller, Director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Tobacco Products, replied when asked about the lobbying force growing against the agency’s deeming regulations.
For now, however, it seems like a legislative war is brewing, at least in Congress. Although the legislation introduced by Representative Tom Cole has not yet been debated or voted on, the vaping industry is hoping that the lobbying efforts by both its industry and Big Tobacco will be enough to force the F.D.A. to rethink its position on the regulations.
We will keep you updated as we learn more.