Trump proposes shifting tobacco regulation away from FDA

President Donald Trump’s recently released budget request has ignited a firestorm of controversy, and one of his proposals regarding tobacco control has already drawn the ire of anti-tobacco advocates.

Under current rules, tobacco products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, President Trump wants to cancel that protocol and replace it with a new agency overseeing the regulation of tobacco and nicotine products. 

New agency proposal

Joe Grogan is director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council, and in November he argued that the FDA isn’t the appropriate body to regulate tobacco.

“On a personal level, I hate tobacco issues, I always have, and FDA shouldn’t be regulating this stuff in the first place,” The Hill quoted Grogan as saying in November. “FDA regulates drugs, which help people … it regulates devices, which help people, tobacco has no redeeming qualities.”

Those comments were echoed on Monday in the administration’s budget request. The document called for an entirely new entity that would have responsibility for the product.

“A new agency with the singular mission on tobacco and its impact on public health would have greater capacity to respond strategically to the growing complexity of new tobacco products,” the request stated.

“In addition, this reorganization would allow the FDA Commissioner to focus on its traditional mission of ensuring the safety of the Nation’s food and medical products supply,” it continued.

Plan raises suspicions among activists

Not everyone agrees that the transfer of authority is a good idea. Former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb disputed Grogan’s characterization.

“The regulation of tobacco products was one of the most productive uses of my time as FDA Commissioner,” Gottlieb tweeted. “There was perhaps no more impactful public health effort I was able to dedicate myself to than trying to reduce smoking rates,” adding, “I’m proud of FDA’s continued role in this mission.”

Some anti-tobacco advocates aren’t on board either with the proposed move either, arguing that it will ultimately help the tobacco industry.

“It has taken a long time for the FDA Center for Tobacco Products to build up the staff, legal expertise and structure to do the job,” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers told the Hill.

“This proposal is yet another giveaway to the tobacco and e-cigarette industry from an Administration that recently sided with the industry over kids by leaving thousands of flavored e-cigarettes on the market.”

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