After unveiling plans back in November to restrict the sale of some flavored e-cigarette products in stores, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb may have taken a significant step this week in advancing the proposed policy.
Citing two sources familiar with the matter, Axios reported Friday that Gottlieb met with White House staff about the plan in what the site said was “the final step before carrying out the policy.” The meeting, which reportedly took place in the West Wing, is said to have included “officials from the Domestic Policy Council, the White House counsel’s office and the National Economic Council,” according to Axios.
An FDA spokesperson confirmed to the outlet that Gottlieb was at the White House on Friday but declined to comment on the nature of the meeting.
The proposed policy aims to make it harder for teens to get their hands on widely appealing vape flavors (think Juul’s mango pods) by prohibiting their sale outside of age-restricted stores or closed off areas. (The exception would be tobacco, mint, and menthol flavors.) The policy also planned to enforce age restrictions for online sales.
Gottlieb himself has said that vaping can be a valuable tool in helping adults quit combustible cigarettes. But Gottlieb’s effort to curb teen smoking has been a key focus of his time as FDA commissioner. And because youth vaping continues to rise, the FDA chief has gone as far as to suggest that e-cig products could be pulled from the market if what he has continuously described as an “epidemic” of teen smoking continues.
“I find myself debating with tobacco makers and retailers the merits of selling fruity flavors in ways that remain easily accessible to kids,” Gottlieb said during a public hearing in January. “But if the epidemic continues to mount, I’m sure that the debate will change to one of whether these products should continue to be marketed at all without authorized pre-market tobacco applications. It could be ‘game over’ for some these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process.”