The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) weakened language on the health risks of cigars and deleted restrictions that could have prevented the online sale of e-cigarettes, recently published documents show.
The OMB, which is in charge of analyzing the possible economic effect of proposed regulations, removed parts of the of the FDA’s proposed regulations that described how those rules could keep people from smoking cigars and the benefits on public health they would have.
The FDA has the authority to regulate cigarettes, smokeless and loose tobacco, but it must have rules issued before it can regulate e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, water pipes, and other tobacco products.
Proposed were regulations that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and vending machine sales. There were to be the first regulations to which the $2 billion industry would be subjected.
The draft presented by the FDA had proposed regulations that could have led to the ban of online sales of e-cigarettes by prohibiting “non-face-to-face sales.” However, the OMB edited the section so that it clearly only bans vending machine sales.
Also changed by the OMB were the sections on regulations for cigars, which now allows for an exemption for “premium cigars.” The OMB deleted an FDA analysis showing a premium cigar exemption from warning labels seen on other types of tobacco products would save manufacturers $1 million to $3 million, but would result in public health costs of anywhere from $32.6 million to $34.2 million.
The OMB also deleted a large portion of the draft in which the FDA explained how many lives would be saved, the value of those saved lives, and an analysis of health improvements that would come from the regulation of cigars. The FDA calculated those “welfare gains” from fewer cigar smokers to be from $16 million to over $50 million.
Twenty-four Republican lawmakers, lobbying for the cigar industry, asked for the exemption in a a 2013 letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and former OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
FDA language saying there would be a review of e-cigarette cartridges due to poor quality control standards, toxic ingredients, and other concerns was also deleted.
According to the Office of the Surgeon General, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and accounts for 480,000 deaths per year, with other reports showing total annual public and private health care costs of at least $132.5 billion.