Harm Reduction Newsletter, April 7

Harm Reduction Newsletter

Harm Reduction Newsletter, April 7

Top Story: FDA Nominee Scott Gottlieb’s Senate Hearing

President Trump’s nominee for head of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on April 5. In his introductory statement, Gottlieb said, “Whether it is combustible tobacco or dangerously addictive opioid drugs – we have the opportunity to help consumers move to less risky alternatives.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy asked about shifting consumers toward reduced risk tobacco products products and the less-than-open stance the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products has taken toward less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. Gottlieb said, “I think Congress had great foresight in envisioning the opportunity for reduced harm products to transition smokers off of combustible tobacco onto reduced harm products.”

He added, “these are ultimately empirical questions that can be adjudicated in the proper regulatory context. An e-cigarette, for example, or vaping products, might be a good smoking cessation tool, an e-cigarette flavor like chocolate chip cookie dough might not be.”

In response to questioning by Sen. Patty Murray on e-cigarette flavorings, youth use, and whether he would weaken the FDA’s “deeming rule.” Gottlieb said he wasn’t going to tolerate a rise in adolescent smoking and said he was committed to proper implementation of the Tobacco Control Act. He added it was an empirical question about when a reduced harm product can be a useful tool for transitioning people off of combustible and when it might be a gateway to adolescent smoking.

Asked if he was in favor of banning flavorings or marketing that “target our kids,” Gottlieb said, “Certainly marketing practices that target kids, as I understand, are already illegal under the scope of the law. I think the issues of the flavoring and all these other issues that deal with the specific qualities of the vaping product are those kinds of empirical questions that I think career staff should be adjudicating in the Center and I want to provide them the proper support to make these judgments and make sure that we’re finding a way to fulfill Congress’s intent here that there should be reduced harm products available to consumers to transition them off of combustible cigarettes.”

Federal News Round-Up

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sanford Bishop’s (D-GA) legislation to change the “predicate date” for vapor products may have its best chance of success via an amendment to the Agriculture appropriations bill that is being marked up this month.

Vapor industry groups including SFATA (Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association), AVA (American Vaping Association), VTA (Vapor Technology Association), ECVA (Electronic Vaping Coalition of America), and AEMSA (American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association) joined forces with NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) to encourage member companies to weigh in on the appropriations process with a “Stop the Vape Ban” website. Consumers are organized under the banner of CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association).

At the request of Reason Foundation and others, the FDA announced that it is extending the public comment period for its proposed rule that would establish new product standard for smokeless tobacco products. Reason Foundation asked that the entire rule be withdrawn.

State News Round-Up

This year, 22 states have legislation pending that would raise the age of purchase for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and vapor products. The Texas House Public Health Committee heard such a proposal last week. The Oregon Senate approved legislation increasing the age to 21, and the Arkansas House rejected a similar proposal by a 41-30 vote. A measure in Arizona appears unlikely to pass since it failed to achieve committee approval by a scheduled deadline.

New York passed a short-term budget extension. Hanging in the balance are the state’s proposed new taxes on vapor products and regulations that would limit the availability and use of vapor products. The New York Senate approved legislation that would ban the sampling of vapor products and the bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee.

Science and Harm Reduction

Dr. Stanton Glantz wrote favorably of a study which he argues shows vaping increases the risk of heart attacks. Dr. Michael Siegel strongly disputes this interpretation, writing “vaping opponents have lost any semblance of scientific rigor.”

American Enterprise Institute scholar Sally Satel examined dangerous misinformation about smokeless tobacco being spread by a Department of Defense hotline.

Videos of presentations made to the the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems are available here, with sessions ranging from the role of flavorings, patterns of use, and regulatory standards.

Regulation

R.J. Reynolds submitted Modified Risk Tobacco Product applications consisting of more than 450,000 pages to the FDA covering its six styles of Camel Snus products.
New Zealand’s government announced plans to legalize the sale of e-cigarettes and regulate them as consumer products.

Taxation

New taxes on vapor products are being considered in at least 14 states. The Hawaii Senate and two House Committees have approved a proposed 70 percent wholesale tax. The House Finance Committee in Washington State approved an extension of the “other tobacco products” tax to vapor products. And the Montana Senate approved a new vapor tax of 74 percent of the wholesale price.

The Rhode Island Department of Revenue testified before the House Finance Committee last week and indicated that it was not the intent of Gov. Gina Raimondo to bring e-cigarettes into the state’s “other tobacco products” tax. Rhode Island vapor businesses cheered the announcement and left the hearing room.

Legislation is pending in Kansas, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania that would reduce onerous vapor taxes previously adopted in those states.

What’s Coming Up?

The Consumer Choice Center, a global initiative that aims to empower consumers to among other things switch to less harmful ways of consuming nicotine, is holding its launch event in Brussels April 26.

Registration is open for ALEC’s 2017 Spring Task Force Summit in Charlotte, NC, on May 5.

The maiden U.S. voyage of The E-Cigarette Summit: Science, Regulation, and Public Health will be in Washington, DC, on May 8.

Quotable Quotes

“They are trying to make consumers run scared from a demonstrably safer product when the likely alternative is traditional tobacco products, which kill up to half of their users,” – Michelle Minton, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Additional Resources

The Proposed Tobacco Product Standard for NNN Level in Smokeless Tobacco Should Be Withdrawn 
The World Health Organization’s Opposition to Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Threat to Public Health? 
The Vapor Revolution: How Bottom-Up Innovation Is Saving Lives 
Reason’s Research and Analysis of Nicotine and Vapor Issues

Guy Bentley is director of consumer freedom at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.