FDA tobacco crackdown draws fire from right

The Trump administration is under fire from GOP lawmakers and conservative groups over its proposed crackdown on e-cigarettes and menthol tobacco products.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week proposed sweeping new restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes in an effort to cut down on teenage vaping. The agency also said it would seek to ban menthol-flavored traditional cigarettes, as well as flavored cigars.

While public health advocates said the moves were long overdue, some conservatives were dismayed at just how sweeping the proposals were, saying they were heavy-handed government regulation.

GOP lawmakers: “I am concerned the FDA’s proposed actions could limit adult Americans’ access to e-cigarette products that help them quit a more dangerous habit. I am also concerned about regulatory overreach,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

“It is troubling … that an administration that pledges to put America first is targeting legal, American-made products instead of focusing its attention on states that flout federal drug laws,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said.

Conservative groups: “We don’t want the government, or anyone else to get in the way of these products,” said Daren Bakst, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “The market has developed important innovations that give hope to people who have a hard time stopping smoking. [This] policy is not something I would point to as being free market oriented.”

Patrick Hedger, policy director at FreedomWorks, a conservative and libertarian advocacy group, said the agency’s actions are running counter to the goals of the rest of the Trump administration.

“FDA is using its regulatory authority to try and achieve a perfect outcome rather than a realistic one at a time when the rest of the Trump administration is doing the exact opposite,” Hedger said.

Bottom line: The Trump administration is not afraid of Republican critics when it comes to taking action against the tobacco industry. And despite the conservative criticism, the administration is receiving praise from others. Though some public health critics want the agency to do more, they’ve acknowledged the proposals are a positive step in the right direction.

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