FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Made Fight Against Tobacco a Priority – Administration Must Move Forward on His Bold Proposals to Save Lives and Strengthen Efforts to Address Youth E-Cigarette Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 05, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – We applaud FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for his strong leadership in making the fight against tobacco use a centerpiece of his tenure at the FDA.

Commissioner Gottlieb has made several bold proposals that, if implemented, have the potential to save more lives from tobacco use than the actions of any previous Administration. These include his proposals to limit nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive or minimally addictive levels and to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, products that play key roles in youth tobacco use. Commissioner Gottlieb also deserves credit for shining a spotlight on the youth e-cigarette epidemic and for the aggressive enforcement actions he has implemented.

However, to date, none of his proposals have been adopted, and there are no rules in place to prohibit the sale of the flavored, high-nicotine products that have led to the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by our kids. Commissioner Gottlieb’s legacy will depend on whether his many proposals are implemented and, in the case of the youth e-cigarette epidemic, strengthened going forward. We urge the FDA and the Administration to quickly implement Commissioner Gottlieb’s proposals to accelerate progress in reducing smoking by issuing rules to limit nicotine levels in cigarettes (and other combustible tobacco products) and to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

It is also imperative that the FDA move forward quickly with strong action to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic. At a minimum, the FDA should immediately implement the steps it announced on November 15, including restricting the sale of certain flavored e-cigarettes in stores accessible to kids. It is deeply concerning that nearly four months later, these promised actions have yet to be implemented. But the FDA’s planned actions do not go far enough. The FDA should prohibit all flavored e-cigarettes that have not been subject to public health review by the agency, halt online sales of e-cigarettes until stronger safeguards are in place to prevent sales to kids, restrict marketing that attracts kids, and enforce rules prohibiting the sale of new products without FDA authorization.

The tobacco industry has already been aggressively fighting these proposals and no doubt will seize on Commissioner Gottlieb’s resignation to ramp up its efforts even more. The FDA and the Administration must reject the industry’s self-serving efforts and put the protection of America’s kids and public health first. As Commissioner Gottlieb rightly recognized, there are no other actions the FDA or this Administration can take that would make a greater difference in improving the nation’s health than driving down tobacco use – the No. 1 cause of preventable death.