Dr. Scott Gottlieb will be the new commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Gottlieb was approved by a vote of 57 to 42 in the U.S. Senate.
His move is expected to be a welcome sign for cigar smokers and companies dealing with the recent deeming regulations by FDA. Gottlieb has previously argued that FDA should not be regulating cigars.
In 2012, he wrote an article for the New York Post arguing that cigars fell outside of the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act.
Even before it’s voted on, the bill may prompt the FDA to take a middle road: The agency could argue that the premium cigars fall within its jurisdiction as a “tobacco product,” but that, for now, it will exercise discretion and not regulate the high-end smokes.
Whatever the FDA does, the fight reveals a broader trend of expanding the scope of regulation to cover areas never envisioned by Congress.
Regulators often prefer to enlarge their jurisdiction rather than tend to their chief obligations. Agencies like the FDA thus divert their attention from important but basic duties.
For example, that 2009 tobacco law was crafted as a way to cut down on underage use of cigarettes. It was, in many respects, a forward-looking measure — envisioning that traditional cigarette makers would gradually transition to developing and marketing smokeless-tobacco products that don’t pose the same health hazards as cigarettes.
But the FDA has been loath to accept that alternative tobacco products could pose a lower health risk than cigarettes. Under the law, it should be examining the relative hazards, rather than spending its energies seeking to expand its powers.
Gottlieb has served at FDA before, though he most recently was employed as a policy analyst and investor in the private sector, largely in the medical field.
His investments also include one in Kure, a vapor retail franchise. Gottlieb has said that he would remove himself for any decisions for one year that would affect one of his previous investments, that could mean he would need to sit out from decisions regarding the entire deeming regulations, which include cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco and e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Last week, FDA agreed that it would delay all future deadlines regarding the deeming rule for three months as the agency’s new personnel, including Gottlieb, review the rule and lawsuits related to the rule.