Gottlieb told his new employees that patient and consumer protection is the fundamental mission of the agency, and that he believes in that mission. Then he touched briefly on many of the current challenges for FDA regulators.
“Among these and many other opportunities, there’s probably no single intervention, or product we’re likely to create in the near future that can have as profound an impact on reducing illness and death from disease as our ability to increase the rate of decline in smoking,” Gottlieb told the crowd.
“We need to redouble efforts to help more smokers become tobacco-free. And, we need to have the science base to explore the potential to move current smokers – unable or unwilling to quit – to less harmful products, if they can’t quit altogether. At all times, we must protect kids from the dangers of tobacco use.”
That was just what the vaping industry wanted to hear. But what exactly does it mean? We know that Gottlieb has previously written about the FDA’s opposition to tobacco harm reduction, and showed some understanding of the underlying issues that have pushed the agency to oppose the vaping market. But while encouraging smokers to become “tobacco-free,” is he throwing a bone to the anti-harm reduction ideologues at the FDA who have stymied efforts to tell the truth about snus and other smokeless tobacco products?
He also has owned stock in and served on the board of a vaping retail franchise. That connection earned him a lot of pointed questions about potential conflicts from Democratic senators during his confirmation hearing. The preemptive accusations may make him hesitant to take bold action to prevent the FDA from crushing the independent vapor market and handing it to the tobacco industry. And bold action is needed.