N.Y. Times: Tobacco industry circling like vultures around FDA

Well, this was completely predictable. As predictable as FDA director Scott Gottlieb being forced out to begin with.

Here is a great story from the New York Times about how tobacco and vaping lobbyists are now “circling” the FDA with Gottlieb’s ouster (and yeah, I’m going to call it an ouster … if it walks like a duck …)

That’s circling as in circling like vultures.

From the New York Times article:

Dr. Gottlieb will depart at the end of this month, following his sudden announcement last week that he would resign, with his plans to toughen regulation of both vaping and smoking unfinished and powerful lobbying forces quietly celebrating the exit of a politically canny administrator who aggressively wielded his regulatory powers.

Opponents are already swooping in, making their case to Congress and reaching out to the White House. A coalition of conservative organizations that oppose government intervention in the marketplace has harshly criticized Dr. Gottlieb’s crackdown on e-cigarettes. Retailers, including convenience store and gas station owners, are on Capitol Hill lobbying against guidelines Dr. Gottlieb proposed on Wednesday to restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to separate adult-only areas and to require age verification of customers.

And major tobacco companies are likely to seize on his departure to try to scuttle his long-term plans to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels and to ban menthol cigarettes, which make up more than a third of the cigarette market and dominate sales to African-Americans. Some longtime officials inside the F.D.A. said privately that they fear these ideas could be delayed indefinitely.

“There have been well-intentioned commissioners before Gottlieb,” said Jonathan Havens, a former F.D.A. tobacco lawyer now in private practice. “But they were not as good at capturing the attention of the nation, of the stakeholders. I think that momentum could very well stall on some of these products, or be lost completely.”

It turns out Altria donated $500,000 to Trump’s inauguration committee and that both Altria and Juul, the largest e-cig brand on the market (which Altria just purchased a controlling share of months ago), have both donated thousands to right-wing lobbying firms  run by people like Grover Norquist and others. Juul spent $1.6 million in donations to lobbyists, according to the New York Times.

Gottlieb had also proposed banning menthol cigarettes and forcing cigarette makers to cut the amount of nicotine in their products. Sure enough, it turns out that when asked if the FDA planned to follow through with Gottlieb’s proposals, the response was “no comment.” (I shit you not).

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