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Scott Gottlieb’s Confirmation Hearing Begins with Tough Questions on Flavored Tobacco

— April 7, 2017

FDA commissioner nominee Scott Gottlieb’s confirmation hearing began on Wednesday.

Senators asked the practicing physician and former Bush administration health official about his stance on an array of topics. Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, grilled Gottlieb on whether he’d be willing to regulate the availability of flavored tobacco products as well as e-cigarettes.

“Gummy bears? Cookies and cream?” asked Murray, listing off the names of e-cigarette flavors which could be construed as appealing to minors.

“I recognize there is a line here somewhere, and I don’t know where that line gets drawn,” Gottlieb responded.

“I think that line needs to get draw by people who are experts in evaluating the science, and I want to support that,” he concluded. According to The Hill, Gottlieb conceded he felt Murray was raising important questions about how tobacco is marketed, especially in regards to the types of younger consumers tastes like “gummy bears” may appeal to.

“As a cancer survivor, I am not going to countenance a rise in adolescent smoking rates in this country under my watch,” he said. However, Gottlieb did suggest that e-cigarettes, popularly referred to as “vapes,” could play an important role in helping adult smokers kick their nicotine addictions.

Flavored e-cig cartridges; image by Lindsay Fox, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, no changes.
Flavored e-cig cartridges; image by Lindsay Fox, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, no changes.

One point of controversy which has hounded Gottlieb since he was put forward as nominee for the commissioner of the FDA is the role he’s played in the pharmaceutical and drug industry. Over the past decade, the doctor has received millions of dollars from “Big Pharma” for his speaking appearances and roles on organizational boards. Gottlieb resigned last year from a position with an e-cigarette company named Kure, promising that his past affiliation wouldn’t cause him to unfairly favor vape manufacturers were his nomination to be confirmed.

A rule implemented in 2016 handed jurisdiction on e-cigarettes to the Food and Drug Administration. The same year, the U.S. Surgeon General deemed an increase in vaping among “youth and young adults” a major cause for concern.

Gottlieb has promised to recuse himself from any and all decisions which might affect the finances of Kure as well as about twenty other companies which would be affected by regulations and guidelines imposed by the FDA. He has also said he’d resign from positions at the American Enterprise Institute, the New York University School of Medicine, and the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Senate Democrats and the left-wing media have been critical in their appraisal of Gottlieb.

Michael Carome, the director of a health research organization at Public Citizen, said of Gottlieb:

“He’s basically entangled in an unprecedented web of ties to big pharma. He is someone who has been an industry shill and has spent most of his career dedicated to promoting the financial interests of pharmaceutical corporations.”

Gottlieb’s proponents note that the physician previously headed an office at the FDA under George W. Bush and has promised to hasten the rate at which new medications can enter the market.


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Featured photo of man vaping courtesy of Vaping360.

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