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New FDA head vows to continue crackdown on teen e-cigarette use

Acting United States Food and Drug Administration commissioner Ned Sharpless said on 16 April that the administration would press on with efforts launched by his predecessor Scott Gottlieb to curb youth tobacco use, writes Cassidy Morrison for the Washington Examiner.

“We’ll maintain our focus on ending the use of combustible cigarettes among adults, and on preventing kids from ever starting,” Sharpless said at his first FDA all hands meeting.

Sharpless said the FDA will carry out “vital research to ensure we have the data necessary to make informed regulatory decisions on electronic cigarette products, so that we can reverse the growing epidemic of youth ENDS use.”

The FDA gained control over e-cigarette regulations in 2016, having expanded its oversight of combustible tobacco to include electronic nicotine delivery systems, including Juul products.

Gottlieb had said in November that teen vaping rates were an “epidemic” and began a major regulatory crackdown on vaping.

Gottlieb focused much of his tenure at the administration on reducing the rates of teen e-cigarette use. He set up new barriers to sales of flavoured e-liquids and cigarettes to teens, took flavours appealing to kids off shelves, and tightened regulations of vaping company marketing tactics.

When Gottlieb announced his departure from the FDA in March, consumers and e-cigarette advocates speculated that the incoming commissioner would roll back some of Gottlieb’s regulatory efforts. However, the administration rebuked those expectations.

“Everybody agrees that there’s going to be more regulation in the tobacco space,” Joe Grogan, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview with Bloomberg in March. “We are extremely concerned about the public health consequences of vaping and e-cigarette use in kids.”

Sharpless assured staff that the FDA would not tolerate tobacco and e-cigarette marketing or sales to people under 18 years of age.

Sharpless, 52, was the director of the National Cancer Institute from November 2017 until Gottlieb’s departure on 5 April. He has long been an academic whose research primarily focuses on the relationship between cancer and aging.

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