Gottlieb Proposes a Split Decision on Vaping Regulation

Former FDA head's argues for removing cartridge-based products from the market but allowing open-tank products
Peter Wehrwein

Scott Gottlieb, MD

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, mapped out a vaping policy yesterday in a Washington Post op-ed piece that he says would strike the right balance between vaping's harms and benefits. 

Gottlieb's proposes removing current cartridge-based e-cigarettes from the market because they are attractive to young smokers:  "Teens like the devices’ sleek form, but also the big nicotine buzz that they offer. It’s not just about the flavors," wrote Gottlieb.

Companies who want to sell cartridge-based e-cigarettes would then need to file an application with the FDA showing that their products have a net public health benefit.

Open-tank e-cigarettes, which Gottlieb says aren't popular with teens because they produce "sizable plumes of hard-to-conceal vapor," would stay on the market in adults-only vaping store. Under Gottlieb's plan, they  they would have until next year to file applications with the FDA. He envisions simplifying that process to make it affordable for vaping shops, many of which are small businesses.

Gottlieb sees vaping as potentially having some public health benefit. Citing a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, he said that "vaping almost certainly contributes to accelerating declines in smoking rates. E-cigs aren’t safe, but when used properly they are not nearly has harmful as lighting tobacco on fire and smoking it."

But he also pointed to FDA data that show almost a third of teens now vape and to a study published in JAMA earlier this year that found that young people who start out using nicotine through e-cigs are more likely to become long-term smokers.

"The solution," he wrote, "is to get e-cigs out of the hands of kids but preserve the devices’ potential to help adult smokers fully quit cigarettes."