AVA President Gregory Conley wrote this editorial, which was published by USA Today on April 8, 2018.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrating that vaping products are among the most used quit-smoking tool in the U.S., many in public health recognize the need to have an adult conversation about nicotine and harm reduction.
Last year, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb attempted to do so when he announced a comprehensive nicotine and tobacco regulatory strategy. Much of his framework, particularly plans for the FDA to be much more aggressive in regulating combustible cigarettes, was met with cheers from health activist groups.
Now, eight months later, these activists have petitioned a federal judge to play regulator and overturn a portion of the strategy that they disagree with — a four-year delay on requiring all vaping products to undergo a retroactive premarket review process.
Dr. Gottlieb’s decision to institute a delay was sensible. When the FDA released its regulation, the agency’s own economic impact analysis noted that the costs and complexities of adhering to the Aug. 8, 2018, deadline could result in the manufacturers of up to 96% of current products not even attempting to file an application to remain on the market.
Had Dr. Gottlieb not acted, today we’d be four months away from prohibiting nearly every vaping product available in America, an absurd result that undermines the goal of reducing tobacco-related death and disease.
As part of this conversation, the realities of youth experimentation should be acknowledged. Despite alarmist headlines, about 1.4% of sixth- through 12th-graders responding to the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey vaped on 20 or more days the prior month, a sign of habitual usage. This is a flimsy basis on which to deny adults access to harm-reduction products.
Dr. Gottlieb deserves credit for trying to start an adult conversation around nicotine, but he may need to acknowledge that some activists simply don’t want that conversation to occur.
Gregory Conley is an attorney and president of the American Vaping Association.