Trump administration proposes removing FDA's authority over tobacco regulation

Trump administration proposes removing FDA's authority over tobacco regulation

The Trump administration on Monday proposed creating a new federal agency to regulate tobacco products while removing that authority from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) 

The White House's budget request for the upcoming fiscal year proposes making the Center for Tobacco Products independent of the FDA, with a director to be confirmed by the Senate. 

"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 budget request reads. 

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"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 continues. 

The FDA regulates tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes, as well as prescription and over-the-counter drugs, food, dietary supplements, vaccines, medical devices and more. 

The new agency would still be under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. The president's budget request is just a proposal and is unlikely to pass Congress in its current form. The idea of removing tobacco regulation authority, which was granted to the FDA in a 2009 law passed by Congress, from the agency does not have broad support among lawmakers. 

Joe Grogan, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, lamented last year to reporters that tobacco regulation was a "huge waste of time" for the FDA. 

"Tobacco has no redeeming qualities and it should not be regulated by a health agency like this," Grogan said last year. 

Tobacco regulation is a "huge distraction" for the FDA, he added.

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pushed back at the time, tweeting that tobacco regulation is one of the agency's "most important public health missions." 

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

The FDA has cracked down on the e-cigarette and tobacco industry in the past year, banning the sale of flavored products it argues are fueling a youth vaping "epidemic." But anti-tobacco advocates argued the Trump administration did not go far enough, leaving thousands of products on the market that could appeal to kids, including single-use, disposable e-cigarettes. 

Free-market groups and conservatives have also been critical of the FDA's actions, arguing that banning flavors is harmful for adults who use e-cigarettes to switch from traditional cigarettes. 

Anti-tobacco advocates on Monday warned against taking tobacco control authority away from the FDA. 

 

"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," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 

"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."

Public health groups have pushed the administration to immediately remove all flavored e-cigarette products from the market. 

Any e-cigarette company that wants to sell their products in the U.S. after May must receive approval from the FDA and prove their products benefit public health. 

The percentage of teenagers who are vaping has doubled in the past two years, according to a government survey, with 25 percent of high school seniors saying they had vaped in the past month. 

Updated at 3:38 pm.