Republican Senator Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, is petitioning newly-crowned Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to reconsider Obama-era rules for the manufacturers of e-cigarettes.
“The rules threaten an emerging industry as well as former smokers who have switched to vaping,” said Johnson, who is also the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Writing to Gottlieb, he argued that “The regulations require e-cigarette manufacturers to complete costly and time-consuming applications to get federal approval to sell e-cigarette products.”
The FDA passed regulations in May 2016 which gave e-cigarette manufacturers periods of time ranging from one to two years to request exemptions from approval processes and submit applications for pre-market approval, among other requirements.
In his letter to Dr. Gottlieb, Johnson wrote, “I am pleased that the FDA recently announced that it would delay enforcement of the regulation.
“Although this is a positive first step, more must be done to permanently rein in this burdensome rule,” Johnson continued. “As you begin your tenure as Commissioner of the FDA, I respectfully urge you to review the FDA’s e-cigarette regulation so the industry can continue to innovate and offer vapers an alternative to smoking.”
The Senate webpage which contains an excerpt of the letter, as well as the full text, suggests that implementing the Obama-era regulations could hurt small businesses as well as American health. The argument for the latter posits vaping as a relatively healthy alternative to tobacco, given its absence of tobacco and a number of carcinogens contained in tobacco products.
Under the Obama administration, the FDA has contended that vaping is still harmful, given it contains the addictive substance nicotine. The agency wrote of vaping products on their ‘Tobacco Products’ page that, “consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemical are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”
Despite the FDA’s skepticism of vaping under Obama, Ron Johnson may have found an ally in newly-minted Commissioner Gottlieb, who refused during his confirmation hearing to take a stance on banning flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes.
Questioned by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as to whether he thought e-cigarette flavors such as “gummy bear” and “ice cream” are appropriate for a market saturated with young consumers, Gottlieb said, “I recognize there is a line somewhere, and I don’t know where that line gets drawn.”
Johnson isn’t the only legislator to back e-cigarettes.
California Rep. Duncan Hunter became a vaping hero after he puffed on an electronic cigarette during a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting, demonstrating the lack of risk associated with e-cigarette use on airplanes.