Top Trump official questions FDA tobacco oversight as vaping ban looms

Top Trump official questions FDA tobacco oversight as vaping ban looms
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE’s top policy official said he thinks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is wasting its time by regulating tobacco products.

Joe Grogan, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters on Friday that the FDA would be better off focusing its efforts on approving drugs that help people, rather than tobacco, which has “no redeeming qualities.”

“On a personal level, I hate tobacco issues, I always have, and FDA shouldn't be regulating this stuff in the first place,” Grogan said, before adding that he has never spoken to Trump about the issue, and it was just his personal opinion.

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Grogan called the FDA’s efforts on tobacco regulation a “huge waste of time” and said the agency has been “sucked in the mud” dealing with tobacco rather than approving more drugs or focusing on serious illnesses. 

“FDA regulates drugs, which help people … it regulates devices, which help people. Tobacco has no redeeming qualities” and should not be regulated by a health agency, Grogan added.  

The FDA gained the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, and it was extended to vaping products in 2016.

Grogan’s comments come as the administration is preparing to unveil new regulations on e-cigarette flavors intended to curb a nationwide spike in youth vaping.

Meanwhile, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pushed back against Grogan, almost as his remarks began circulating. 

“The regulation of tobacco products was one of the most productive uses of my time as FDA Commissioner,” Gottlieb said in a tweet. 

“It’s one of FDA’s most important public health missions … [and] must remain top priority for FDA,” Gottlieb added in another post.

In separate remarks Friday at the White House, Trump said the rules on e-cigarettes will be coming next week. He indicated that part of the administration’s plan will involve raising the age limit to purchase vaping products from 18 to 21.

“We're going to be coming out with an important position on vaping. We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we're going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” Trump said.

Trump also said taking care of jobs was important, and noted that vaping has become a “pretty big industry.”

“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working, and there’s some pretty good aspects,” Trump told reporters. “We’re coming out, we’re very close to a final report, and we’ll be giving it next week.” 

Trump’s remarks are the latest indication that the new rules could have some sort of exemption for vape shops, a softening of the initial proposal announced nearly two months ago by Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Vaping industry groups, as well as some of Trump’s political allies and campaign officials, have been urging the president to exempt mint and menthol flavors, as well as carve out vape shops from flavor restrictions. 

They argue that removing all flavors from the market will lead to people losing jobs, and could drive people back to smoking traditional cigarettes. Industry groups broadly support raising the purchase age to 21.