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Progress in FDA’s approach to e-cigarettes must not be undermined by nominee’s financial conflicts

(April 7th, 2017, New York, USA) – Vital Strategies has expressed alarm that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the nominee for commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, previously held a position with an e-cigarette company and continues to have declared financial interests in that business. Less than a year ago, the FDA succeeded in incorporating new provisions to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of e-cigarettes under the “deeming rule.”

José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, said: “This is a sensitive period for the effective implementation of the deeming rule to e-cigarettes; it is imperative that the leadership of the FDA is not conflicted on this issue. The best solution is that Dr. Gottlieb recuses himself from all decisions involving e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems now and in the future.  While his tenure of employment may have ended and he could divest his financial interests, his relationships and circles of influence will remain. Those links are hard to ignore; as we have seen many times, the revolving doors between industry and government often prove to be detrimental to health policy.”

In disclosure documents related to his nomination, it became clear that until May 2016, Dr. Gottlieb held a position with Kure, a vape store franchiser that both sells electronic cigarette products and promotes “vaping” lounges. The documents further confirm that Dr. Gottlieb has a current financial interest in the company. He has stated that he will recuse himself from “any particular matter” involving Kure for one year from May 2016, but this is not sufficient.

Vital Strategies recently reiterated the reasons – based upon the latest scientific evidence – why we believe that e-cigarettes should be treated with skepticism. This includes the conclusions of the Surgeon General, who found that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, can cause addiction and can have a harmful impact on the developing adolescent brain.

“Kure is a prime example of some of our concerns,” continued Castro. “It promotes its products and services as lifestyle products, while also trumpeting tens of thousands of flavors and flavor combinations including “Chewy the Bear” and “Kandy Kane.” These are clearly attractive to youth, and an example of how the industry is driving large numbers of youth and young adults to using e-cigarettes. When it comes to the e-cigarette industry and the tobacco industry, which increasingly dominates the e-cigarette space, we need an FDA commissioner who is ready to stand up to the industry, challenge unsubstantiated and untrue claims about new products, and penalize organizations that breach the new provisions under deeming – especially targeting and selling to youth.”

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or