President Trump's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused at his confirmation hearing Wednesday to commit to banning flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes.
Scott Gottlieb said he can see where flavored products may be inappropriate in one context and appropriate in another, adding that his experts on staff should be making those determinations.
"Gummy bears? Cookies and cream?" Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayOvernight Healthcare: GOP healthcare talks stall | Ryan takes backset to Pence in new repeal effort | FDA nominee grilled over industry ties Senators battle over FDA nominee's financial ties FDA nominee won't commit to banning flavored e-cigarettes, cigars MORE (D-Wash.) asked, naming e-cigarette flavors.
"I recognize there is a line here somewhere, and I don't know where that line gets drawn," Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said Murray was raising some imperative questions about when a reduced-harm product like e-cigarettes could be useful in transitioning people off of combustible cigarettes and when they might be a gateway to adolescent smoking.
"I think a properly constructed and overseen regulatory process should have the capacity under the authorities Congress gave the agency to make these determinations," he said.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids on Wednesday called on Gottlieb to recuse himself from all decisions involving e-cigarettes, given his financial stake in Kure, a vape store franchiser.
Gottlieb has promised to divest his financial interest in Kure and recuse himself from any particular matter involving the company for one year, but the advocacy group said that's not enough.
Since all e-cigarette interests will be impacted by how the FDA implements its 2016 rule asserting jurisdiction over e-cigarettes — called the deeming rule — campaign President Matthew Myers said the group assumes he will recuse himself from all matters related to e-cigarettes going forward.
In a 2016 report, the surgeon general called e-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults a major public health concern.