In their Oct. 12, 2018, op-ed, “We must keep e-cigarettes from kids,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said implementing a new rule to minimize nicotine levels in cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products was the FDA’s top tobacco-control priority. That would have prompted millions of smokers to quit or move to e-cigarettes and would have eliminated any risk that the children becoming addicted to e-cigarettes would move on to deadlier smoking.
Then, in their March 21 op-ed, “Once a teen fad, now an epidemic,” Mr. Azar and Mr. Gottlieb wrung their hands about the continuing crisis of increased e-cigarette use among youth. If this crisis gets even worse, they said, “more drastic regulatory action will be considered.” Wow.
If this White House was concerned about youth e-cigarette use and needless deaths from smoking, the FDA would have issued that nicotine-reduction rule by now and eliminated kid-attracting flavors in tobacco products and e-cigarettes. Instead, blocked from taking effective action, Mr. Gottlieb is leaving the FDA, and he and Mr. Azar are reduced to threats to try to get the industry to regulate itself. Meanwhile, an additional half-million people die prematurely each year from smoking, and more and more youths become addicted users.
Eric N. Lindblom, Washington
The writer is director of Tobacco Control and Food and Drug Law at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law and was director of the Office of Policy at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products from 2011 to 2014.