Change is afoot at the US CTP and CDC – but what about tobacco?


Toward the end of last week, Michele Mital was – as we’d predicted – named as acting replacement for Mitch Zeller at the head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP).

The temporary role gives Mital, currently the CTP’s deputy director, an even stronger chance at the permanent job leading the division responsible for regulating all tobacco products.

For the industry, this is not bad news, even if it’s not quite good news: for where US federal regulation is concerned (and indeed regulation at lower levels of government), in the current anti-nicotine climate any dramatic change is most probably going to be a change for the worse. It is not realistic to expect a passionate advocate of harm reduction and laissez-faire to fill Zeller’s shoes.

So Mital, who one can presume has bought in already to the broad thrust of FDA policy on novel tobacco products if not to every detail, is unlikely to take the agency’s attitudes in a significantly negative direction. Much more plausibly, her priority where novel products are concerned will be to sort out the embarrassing backlog of premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs).

However, there just may be the prospect of bigger change at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another federal body.

Perception-forming role

Unlike the FDA, the CDC does not regulate tobacco products. But its pronouncements and its research have been highly significant in forming the perception of a nation’s youth in the grip of helpless addiction – one that is not completely unfounded but is certainly exaggerated, and tends to ignore the decline in under-age smoking which has continued throughout the rise of vaping. Most important in this, perhaps, has been the CDC’s recently updated National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), but other publications like its Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Reports and Scientific Evidence Briefs also play a part in establishing the received wisdom.

The CDC, though, has come under considerable fire for its handling of Covid-19, where critics say it often could have acted quicker and acted better. And as a result its director, Rochelle Walensky, has commissioned a substantial review of its practices, which could lead to the CDC being given more independence, and, importantly, feeling less obliged to act with excessive caution or to dance too slavishly to the tune of political masters.

Read full article here.

Barnaby Page – Tobacco Intelligence – 2022-04-08

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