Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a new
policy last month aimed at addressing the increase in teen smoking. The FDA
claims the recent spike in teen smoking is directly correlated with teenager’s
ability to access e-cigarettes and vaporized products that produce “fruity
all agree that smoking is bad for one’s health, especially for teens who are
still developing physically and cognitively. Given the seriousness of this
issue, our government should focus on real solutions based on scientific data.
Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite approach of the FDA’s new e-cigarette
take a closer look at the proposed guidelines, it becomes apparent that this
new policy not only demonstrates the classic example of a government overreach
but, furthermore, is not supported by scientific data or research.
FDA policy allows vape and tobacco shops and online stores to continue selling
fruity flavors, under an assumption that they are better than other retail
locations, like convenience stores, at enforcing age restriction policies. But
the FDA has provided no evidence to support this assumption, even though it is
the crux of their argument for this rule change.
based on a recent study, more teens acquire their e-cigarettes and
vaporizers from vape and tobacco stores than from grocery stores and
convenience stores combined.
study also highlights another huge flaw in the FDA’s new policy. The survey
data shows that nearly 70% of teens don’t even get their e-cigarette products
from a retail location.
often gain access to these products by buying e-cigarettes from another person,
giving money to someone else to buy e-cigarettes, or receiving an e-cigarette
as a gift. Those avenues together equal over 45% of the ways teens acquire the
shows that of the teens who did buy their own e-cigarette products from a
retail location, 86.8% of the locations they purchased the products at are not
covered under the FDA policy.
the survey that Commissioner Gottlieb has used to promote this new FDA
guideline, the 2018 U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey, also shows just
how ineffective it will be.
example, the three flavors that are exempt from the restrictions in the new FDA
policy are tobacco, menthol, and mint. These are also the flavors that over 80%
of teens who responded to the survey chose.
less than 2% of teens will be “prevented” from using their traditional source
of acquiring e-cigarette products. That is assuming they do not transition to
other locations or online, retail locations that are much more likely to sell
these products to minors.
are we trading off for this burdensome policy that may actually increase
teenage use of e-cigarettes?
off, adults who are using newly banned flavors to help them quit smoking are
going to have increased difficulty in accessing these products. This is
especially true in lower-income and urban areas where convenience and corner
stores serve as de facto grocery stores where food and other staples are
addition, during the FDA’s rollout of this policy, Commissioner Gottlieb openly admitted that e-cigarettes and vape products are key
tools in helping adults quit smoking. Furthermore, transitioning smokers to
electronic cigarettes also provides a huge public health benefit.
economic repercussions to this policy as well. Local convenience stores, for
example, who are priced out of being able to sell these products due
to the nature of this new policy will inevitably lose business. The government
is not only forcing local stores to give up this source of income but are also
providing an incentive for the convenience store customers to go to other
businesses, like vape and tobacco shops. Essentially, the FDA is picking
winners and losers in the marketplace.
when it comes to addressing the real problem of increased teen smoking, the new
FDA policy is providing an ineffective solution that could cause more harm than
we have an opportunity to speak out against this policy. The new FDA
Commissioner, Ned Sharpless, still has to be confirmed by the Senate.
Conservatives like Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) hold
significant weight within the conservative movement, should use their platforms
to highlight how misguided this FDA e-cigarette policy is and show that the
American people will not mistake action for progress.
Matt Mackowiak is president of
Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a
Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign
veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.