So why is the media linking menthol cigarettes and vaping?
Just because the nicotine used in vaping isn’t directly derived from tobacco doesn’t mean there’s no link. Nicotine is an addictive substance and a study has shown that for every smoker that quits as a result of vaping, 80 will segue from vaping to real cigarettes. Considering that youth are a core demographic of vape users, that could spell a resurgence in smokers in upcoming generations.
Also, Big Tobacco has transitioned into ownership of several large vaping companies. As noted by Maclean’s magazine, “Today, some of the most popular e-cigarette brands are owned by Big Tobacco, leading to the industry’s partial transformation into Big Vape.”
Just because American tobacco isn’t being used to make nicotine in vaping product now doesn’t mean that it’ll stay that way in the future. At least one industry publication has speculated that American farmers could produce tobacco that could be used in vaping products. In 2014 Rod Kuegel, President of the Council for Burley Tobacco said, “All the equipment needed to process the tobacco could fit into a semi-trailer and be carried from farm to farm”.
The White House and Gottlieb are adamant that he stepped down as was not fired. But Gottlieb’s removal could open the door for President Trump to install an FDA Commissioner friendlier to tobacco – or, at the very least, less hostile to it. Doing so would likely buttress his support within the key swing state of North Carolina.
On the media front, Gottlieb’s sudden departure is sure to raise eyebrows and place a spotlight on whether the Trump administration’s reported cozy ties to the tobacco industry played a role. There is also likely to be vigilant monitoring of whether current proposed restrictions on tobacco and vaping will continue in a post-Gottlieb FDA.