Scott Gottlieb was totally not forced out at the FDA or anything

Well, you could knock me down with a feather….

FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb announced this week that he is resigning his position to… get this … spend more time with his family.

Yup, that really actually is his excuse. And this came a couple of weeks after he insisted he wasn’t going anywhere … which was a pretty big clue that he was on his way out.

And he was totally not forced out by Republicans or by the tobacco industry because … he insists he was not forced out by Republicans or the tobacco industry. Repeatedly. So, that’s the end of discussion.

Gottlieb was a total anomaly in the Trump Administration, someone who actually was doing his job. Someone who wasn’t terribly controversial and who didn’t completely dismantle the agency he was put in charge of.

Honestly, for two years, I’ve been scratching my head at it. Trump has clearly put pro-industry, pro-business, anti-regulatory shills in charge of many federal agencies. And it’s clear that their role is to simply dismantle that agency.

Gottlieb was the outlier. He actually was fairly anti-tobacco industry and he was particularly anti-vaping industry (and I don’t differentiate  much between the vaping and tobacco industry because the tobacco industry has a controlling interest about 75-80 percent of the vaping industry)  was using the FDA to crack down pretty harshly on the vaping industry, mostly over the huge increase in recent years in teen vaping.

Gottlieb had gone so far as to threaten to completely ban vaping products completely. He didn’t follow through with that threat, but he did propose a bunch of new regulations toward vaping products, including rules that vaping products can only be sold in areas completely closed off to minors. He also proposed banning menthol cigarettes.

So, I wasn’t surprised when he suddenly announced this week he was resigning.

Hah, the kicker? He actually boldly announced two months ago he wasn’t going anywhere. That told me right there that there was political pressure coming down on him because he was too anti-industry for Republicans’ taste.

This New York Times article goes to great length to highlight Gottlieb and the Trump Administration’s denials that he was forced out by Big Tobacco and Republicans. He denies it a little too much, frankly. Yeah, because the Trump Administration ALWAYS tells the truth about these things, right? And the “I wanted to spend more time with my family” is the oldest excuse in the book.

From the article:

Dr. Gottlieb has been subject to increasing pressure from some Republicans in Congress and his former associates in the conservative movement for his tough stance against youth vaping and traditional cigarettes. A coalition of influential conservative groups recently asked the White House to block some key parts of the F.D.A.’s strategy to prevent youths from vaping. Republican Senator Richard Burr blasted the commissioner on the Senate floor for his proposal to ban menthol cigarettes.

Dr. Gottlieb said these protests had no role in his departure.

“There’s no intrigue here,” he said in an interview. A senior White House official said Dr. Gottlieb was not pressured to leave and that the President was “very fond” of him.

Dr. Gottlieb said these protests had no role in his departure.

“There’s no intrigue here,” he said in an interview. A senior White House official said Dr. Gottlieb was not pressured to leave and that the President was “very fond” of him.

Gottlieb’s proposed regulations were in the “pending” stage. Expect them to remain there … or to be dropped entirely. From the article:

Dr. Gottlieb said he planned to advance the F.D.A.’s pending tobacco regulations before he leaves. And he was confident, he said, that the agency’s guidance on restricting flavored e-cigarettes would be issued before he left. He acknowledged, however, that he could not predict the fate of his proposals to ban menthol in cigarettes and reduce nicotine to nonaddictive levels in cigarettes.

Industry analysts expressed optimism that those initiatives would, in fact, now end.

“We think this major development will be broadly viewed as a positive for the tobacco industry, although this introduces some uncertainty,” Bonnie Herzog, a managing director of equity research at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in an email to clients. “We believe his resignation calls into question whether or not the FDA will in fact enforce harsher regulations around youth e-cig usage/access, cig nicotine limits and a cig menthol ban given he was the champion behind these initiatives.”

So, I expect little or nothing to be done about vaping, teen vaping, menthol cigarettes for the next two years. Gottlieb was the wrong guy, in the wrong administration, to make it happen.

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