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Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is done playing nice on e-cigarettes. He’s calling on the agency to ban all pod-based e-cigarettes, a move that would likely eliminate every product sold in the U.S. by companies like Juul and Njoy.

In a far-reaching and strikingly candid speech at Harvard University on Tuesday evening, the Trump appointee plans to rail against top e-cigarette makers for their role in what he calls the “travesty on top of a travesty” of youth vaping.

“Unless we’re able to change the current trajectory of tobacco-related disease, almost six million children alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use,” Gottlieb will say, according to prepared remarks shared with STAT. “In my view, that requires us to sweep the market of all of the cartridge-based e-cigarette products in their entirety — Juul, Njoy, Blu, Vuse, and the others.”

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Gottlieb, however, believes that open-tank vaping systems, such as those sold in dedicated adults-only vape shops, should still be able to stay on the market.

“We can preserve for adults the open-tank vaping systems that are sold in the adult vape shops,” Gottlieb says. “The kids just don’t like those big open-tank contraptions.”

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His remarks come as the Trump administration continues to weigh a final regulation that could ban most flavored e-cigarettes. The administration has not formally unveiled its plan, but the policy is expected to carve out exemptions for tobacco and menthol flavored vapor products.

Gottlieb, who is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a special partner at the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, resigned from the FDA early this spring. But since his resignation he has made no bones about advocating for the FDA to pursue certain policies.

The remarks also come just days after a top Trump administration official claimed that the FDA’s efforts to regulate tobacco were a waste of time. Gottlieb, who not so subtly made his qualms with that statement known on Twitter, will largely reiterate those comments Tuesday.

“As a public health agency charged with the protection and promotion of the public health, FDA’s tobacco mission is an essential part of its overall obligation,” Gottlieb’s remarks state. “Addressing the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this nation — tobacco use — is among the most essential expressions of that mission.”

While Gottlieb’s policy prescription would likely put many of the top e-cigarette companies out of business, it would have a particularly devastating impact on Juul. Juul reportedly controls more roughly three quarters of the e-cigarette market and has been sharply criticized by some for fueling the popularity of vaping among young people. In response, the company has pulled most of its flavored products from the market, brought in a new CEO, and temporarily suspended all advertising earlier this year.

But Gottlieb isn’t pulling any punches in his criticism of the brand.

“At these levels of youth use, it can be judged that they’re not a responsible steward of their brand,” Gottlieb says. “There’s clear evidence that the manufacturers of Juul can’t, or perhaps won’t, keep their products out of the hands of children.”

Gottlieb also makes clear in his remarks that while he supports the Trump administration’s forthcoming ban on flavored products, he doesn’t think it will stem the tide of youth vaping.

“I fear that even if we fully remove the fruity flavors from the market, kids will continue to prefer the sleek Juul device and its high nicotine,” Gottlieb will say. “I’m concerned that a lot of currently addicted kids will just switch to the tobacco flavors.”

As FDA commissioner, Gottlieb championed a more activist role for the FDA in regulating tobacco issues. In 2017, he unveiled a sweeping tobacco control plan that most notably included reducing the level of nicotine in combustible tobacco to non-addictive levels. During his tenure he also cracked down on companies selling flavored tobacco targeted at youth and and stood up a massive anti-vaping campaign aimed at children.

But despite those actions, Gottlieb admitted Tuesday that he did not foresee Juul’s meteoric rise in popularity among children.

“What we didn’t envision in the summer of 2017 was Juul,” Gottlieb says. “I didn’t foresee how that product would be positioned in the kid marketplace, how it would appeal to children, and what a malignant presence it would become among American children.”

According to recently released FDA survey data, more than 5 million children are now using e-cigarettes, and the majority say they prefer Juul.

Megan Thielking contributed reporting. 

  • I VAPE, I VOTE !!!!!!!!! AND JUST FOLLOW THE MONEY, THIS IS NOT ABOUT KIDS AT ALL…..WAKE UP EVERYBODY……WAKE UP…..MONEY, MONEY, MONEY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • LEAVE US VAPERS ALONE ……..IT IS CALLED FREEDOM…….BUG OFF OR TRUMP WILL NOT BE RE-ELECTED IN 2020 !!!!!!!!!!! DO YOU HEAR US NOW ???????????

  • Another knee jerk reaction “for the children” based in sophistry and rhetoric. Optics mean nothing, read the medical reports from the UK, vaping works, facts work. Emotional “for the children let’s ban it” does not work and is not smart.

  • I quit smoking two years ago using a refillable pod system. I can run five miles now when before I couldn’t run half a mile without gasping. The “save the children” propaganda is one of the oldest tricks in the book. this has everything to do with big tobacco and the government regaining market share and tax revenue. It has nothing to do with keeping kids away from nicotine. More than half a million people die in this country every year from smoking yet the politicians turn a blind eye to cigarettes. Thank you Mr politician for knowing what’s best for me. What would we do without you?

  • This is insane. I smoked for 22 years. I started smoking when I was 8. Vaping is the only thing that has kept me away from cigarettes. Everyone is so upset about vaping but smoking kills so many more people every day than vaping has ever killed. Please for the love of God do not take vaping away from me. I don’t want to go back to smoking but I know I will without vaping.

  • worrying about “vape” while cigarettes are given a pass is the most transparent thing, I have ever seen from an administration. Master Settlement Agreement anyone???

  • Of course Scott Gottlieb will protect open tank vapes, he has financial stake in Kure Vapes a supplier of liquids for open tank vapes… just google it.
    Yes, ban all pod-based e-cigarettes as they are harmful and addictive, but ban open tank vapes first: pick and mix loosely controlled chemicals and who knows what people put in those open tanks! Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Also, if banning all of these please get rid of regular cigarettes as well, they kill 1300 US CITIZENS PER DAY… again google it, and keep this in mind when someone says “vapes are just as bad”

    • Yes! Closed salt nic pod systems contain high nicotine levels, far more in a pod than pack of cigarettes. Eliminate high nic levels.

    • you do not know anything about vape, other than what you have been told. so keep your ignorance to yourself. when people truly understand the industry & its dynamics come across comments like yours? its just embarassing.

    • People who use open system vape, nicotine that is. Google it.. It’s 95% less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Look at what they are doing in the UK. Vape shops in hospitals. I know I vape myself. Most of what you bear about vaping here in the US is fake news. Fear mongering. Why due to the government needing MSA money. In e-liquid there are 4 ingredients. That’s all. Don’t take my word for it. Like I said just Google what they are doing in the UK. Oh yeah also the kids vaping as they say most are one time use. More kids are using weed drinking and texting or emailing while driving. That’s not being talked about though. Also open vape isn’t used for drugs. Most people get their liquid from the vape shop. You can Google that also.. Lol. Have a good day. Once u do see all what I said you will start to see how corrupt the government is..

  • And so FDA and others will fiddle (vape?) while Rome burns?

    Cigarette smoking is going down in the US and so fiddle on a profitable side street?

  • Maybe Gottlieb resigned from his post as FDA Commissioner and left the FDA earlier this year because from the inside he could not accomplish this ban. Maybe recent findings (a bit late) prompt this hot pursuit. Maybe it is tough commotion from the outside that forces the FDA to finally act. It is imperative that youth’s disastrous use of fancied-up nicotine products gets drastically curbed. Companies like Juul have without compunction capitalized on blithering FDA oversight, and the resulting predisposition to nicotine cravings evidenced by a shockingly large wave of teenagers has to be curbed. Better late than never but it must be done, and sooner rather than later.

    • This allows Dr.Gottlieb to get back on track with his continuum of harm vision. With a VLN mandate on combustibles resulting in a funneling of current to safer nicotine delivery devices at the other end of the spectrum. A win for current adult smokers, a win by preventing initiation of youth nicotine addiction by eliminating the faddish “coolness” of the pod based devices.

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