Published on April 11th, 2017 | by Jimmy Hafrey
As President Donald Trump continues to fill his administration, there’s one person that has caught the eye of vape advocates: his nominee to head the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Gottlieb is a conservative health policy analyst that was nominated to become the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration by President Trump. He currently holds a position as a clinical assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and works as an internist at Tisch Hospital. Prior to medical school, Gottlieb worked at Alex Brown and Sons, an investment bank, as a healthcare analyst.
Trump’s nomination of Gottlieb won’t come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the FDA or Gottlieb; he has worked for the agency in a variety of capacities since 2005. Some of his titles include Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs and Senior Executive Service. He was also a member of the White Biodefense Interagency Working Group that was convened after the 9/11 attacks and was appointed by then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a member of the Federal Health IT Policy Committee.
Gottlieb was also involved in the 2016 presidential election; he worked for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president before serving on the Trump Transition Team, starting in the summer of 2016. His name had been floated as a potential nominee since last year, and the nomination was just formal confirmation of what many in the health field knew would happen.
While Gottlieb has a substantial amount of experience working for the FDA, his nomination has brought around some questions from members of the Senate, in particular, questions about vaping.
CSP Daily News is reporting that at Gottlieb’s confirmation for the position of commissioner of the FDA that was held last week, he declined to confirm or deny his commitment on a ban of vape products. This came after he was asked directly by Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat representing the state of Washington, whether or not he would consider a ban on flavors that could potentially lure teens and young adults to experiment with vaping.
Murray listed several vape candy and sweet flavors while pushing Gottlieb for an answer, to which the nominee responded:
“I recognize there is a line here somewhere,” he said in response to Murray’s questions, “and I don’t know where that line gets drawn. I think that line needs to get drawn by people who are experts in evaluating that science, and I want to support that.
The refusal of a straightforward answer from Gottlieb bodes well for the vape industry, as it seems that Gottlieb is not satisfied with the American misinformation campaign that has been waged against the industry.
When questioned further by Murray and her colleagues, Gottlieb responded that questions around vaping and the potential impact it could have as a smoking cessation method as well as whether or not it is truly a gateway to smoking for teens and young adults means that the discussion revolving around vaping is not quite finished.
“I think a properly constructed and overseen regulatory process should have the capacity under the authorities Congress gave the agency to make these determinations,” he said.
Gottlieb is correct on this assumption: vaping has yet to be fully researched by the medical and health community; however, most studies done on vaping have shown it to be a viable alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. This includes the assertion by Public Health England, a regulatory health agency in the UK, that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking traditional cigarettes; that same report also has led to the UK officially recommending vaping as a smoking cessation method to employers.
The fact that vaping’s future in many countries is unsure shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; the technology is relatively new, having only been on the market since 2008. That means that it has been a relatively short amount of time in terms of study; long-range studies in vaping have yet to be completed, with many having a conclusion deadline of 2018. Even then, the iterations of technology and studies that have been done have allowed vaping to become smarter and safer for the public; examples of this include better vape mod technology, safer battery controls, and the advancement of synthetic nicotine.
So Gottlieb’s assertion that there vaping has yet to be researched fully and that more study is needed is correct; however, that hasn’t stopped his detractors from demanding he answer their questions.
As The Hill reports, one such group of detractors is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and they have come out full force against Gottlieb in a very interesting way: the group is demanding that should his nomination go through that he recuse himself from making decisions on vaping in any capacity.
This demand will not come as a surprise to Gottlieb or his supporters; he has a financial interest in Kure, a franchise of vape stores that is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because the FDA commissioner has full discretion and the last word on vaping regulations, many within the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids believe that his interest in Kure is a conflict of interest and may hinder his decision-making capabilities with regard to vaping.
While Gottlieb has pledged to divest his financial stake in Kure as well as recuse himself from any decisions that could affect the company for one year, the group says that those actions would not be enough: a full recusal for as long as he hold tenure as commissioner of the FDA is what the advocates are looking for.
That Gottlieb’s confirmation hearing ventured into a discussion about vaping and his refusal to commit to a ban is a good sign; this means that Gottlieb will not be deterred by misinformation or other scare tactics employed by anti-vaping advocates. It also means, hopefully, that Gottlieb will allow sound science to inform his policy on vaping, allowing smokers who desperately need this alternative smoking cessation method the chance to quit their habit for good and go on to lead productive and healthy lives.
This publication will continue to update readers on Gottlieb and any position he may take on vaping the future.