All eyes are on the battle over the Speaker’s chair and how to fund the government into the next fiscal year. Don’t be distracted by the high profile fights and miss the Biden Administration chipping away at your rights. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken recent actions that fall right into that category of politically driven decision-making while nobody is looking.
Don’t get me wrong, the FDA does some important work. They study and approve life saving drugs all the time. The FDA just approved a blood test to screen for hereditary cancers. They have been studying controversial weight loss drugs to make sure users know the dangers. The FDA has a long history of studying and approving drugs that Americans use every day while relying on the FDA’s stamp of approval that they are safe for use. The problem comes when they cave to pressure from Capitol Hill and engage in politically driven science.
In June of last year, and as reported by Business Insider, the agency considered applications for tobacco-flavored vaping to study any action they wanted to take to protect the public. Vaping has become very popular and many consider them indispensable in kicking the habit of smoking traditional cigarettes that have proven harmful to so many Americans. Congress hauled the Commissioner of the FDA for a hearing where they intimidated the agency with hostile questions that pushed them to ban all vaping. CNN reported that Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) asked “If the FDA banned all flavored e-cigarettes, would less kids continue to vape, among those who have started, in your opinion?” The clear push was to get the FDA to deny all applications for vaping products. This pressure campaign removes the independent decision making that has been a hallmark of most FDA findings and orders.
A final decision seemed to favor the large tobacco companies who have bought out some of the vaping companies to the detriment of smaller brands. The same game plan played out with regard to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) effort to target a specific brand of vaping product that he claims was being promoted by “influencers” in a way that attracted use by youths. The FDA responded by putting the company on an import ban list.
One problem is that many scientists have found that vaping is a safe alternative to traditional cigars and cigarettes. Guy Bentley wrote on January 23, 2023, for the Reason Foundation that “last month, the Reagan-Udall Foundation delivered a damning review of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) performance as a tobacco regulator.” The Reagan-Udall Foundation is an independent organization that aids the FDA to advance its mission and helps to distill scientific study in a way that helps the FDA to make solid decisions based on science – not politics. Bentley reported that the Foundation investigated “what is going wrong at the agency after a series of embarrassing missteps concerning the regulation of safer nicotine alternatives, like e-cigarettes, to traditional cigarettes.” They found that a majority of e-cigarette applications were denied and made effectively illegal for use by those who want to wean themselves off traditional tobacco products.
One does not need to be a scientist to understand that vaping does not include the burning of tobacco products to ingest nicotine. Anybody who has spent time around smokers can tell immediately that they smoke quite a bit because they end up smelling of traditional cigarettes. I am ok with people assuming the risk and smoking cigarettes if they want and most smokers are aware of the dangers, yet they are also in need of some help to get off the habit. Vaping can be a bridge to kicking the habit.
Vaping has its own challenges and health risks, yet, if done in moderation and as a means to kick the habit of smoking tobacco products, it is a net benefit to users. The cronyism and favoritism that has plagued the FDA’s treatment of vaping products is a result of politics. Congress should stay out of pressure campaigns on the FDA and allow them to follow the science.
I have a good number of friends who swear by vaping products to kick the habit of smoking cigarettes. Vaping, like every activity that involves habits that involve ingesting nicotine, poses risks to consumers, yet we live in a free society where adults can make informed decisions on what they want to do. Politically charged decision making at the FDA should be abandoned for a science-based method of informing the public of dangers, then letting adults make informed decisions.
Don’t be distracted by the high-profile fights in Congress when important decisions relating to freedom are being made by regulators over at the FDA.