Health and Science

Trump retreat on e-cig flavor ban is a 'Pyrrhic victory' for vaping industry, Scott Gottlieb says

Key Points
  • Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb called the Trump administration's delay on a flavor ban on e-cigarettes a "Pyrrhic victory" meaning one achieved at excessive cost.
  • The e-cigarette industry should work with lawmakers on regulatory action on vaping sooner rather than later, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
  • The longer the trends in teen vaping continue, the "more draconian the regulatory action" will be from Washington to reverse it, he says.
Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the FDA
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The Trump administration's delay of rules that would restrict flavored  e-cigarettes may look like a win for the industry right now, but it will come at a steep cost later, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

"Delays on regulatory steps to combat youth vaping may be a Pyrrhic victory for outside vaping groups fighting reasonable action to stop kid use of the products; putting the entire opportunity at risk and making bipartisan legislation to impose restrictions increasingly inevitable," Gottlieb said over Twitter Sunday night. A Pyrrhic victory is one achieved at "excessive cost," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

"There are steps that can preserve opportunities for adults and dramatically limit access and appeal to kids," Gottlieb said in his tweet thread Sunday. "But the longer the youth trends continue to grow, the less possible these measured steps become, and the more likely a broader ban is made inevitable."

Gottlieb, a medical doctor who's been critical of the vaping industry, including e-cigarette giant Juul, has called for a "federal reckoning" to address teen vaping.

Teen vaping rates are on the rise despite efforts by health officials to control it. More than one in four high school students in the U.S. use e-cigarettes, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The teen vaping epidemic comes as public health officials try to combat a vaping illness outbreak that has taken the lives of 42 people. Congress has indicated it wants action.

Trump administration officials said they were readying a ban on non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors in September in an attempt to curb teen vaping. However, the administration retreated from the regulation this month under pressure from vaping and tobacco lobbyists, according to the New YorkTimes.

Any delays, Gottlieb said, makes "bipartisan legislation to impose restrictions increasingly inevitable."

Gottlieb added there are regulatory actions that can "preserve opportunities for adults and dramatically limit access and appeal to kids." He has suggested, for example, that the FDA ban all pod-based e-cigarettes.

"Bottom line: There are reasonable steps to dramatically limit access and appeal to kids we can take now that won't foreclose opportunities for adults or shutter adult vape shops," Gottlieb said. "The longer youth trends continue to mount, the more sweeping will have to be the inevitable reckoning."