Published on 25th April 2017
Anti-Vaping Surgeon General Replaced
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is out as U.S. Surgeon General after a surprise dismissal late last week. Murthy is a doctor that was educated at Yale and Harvard and was the founder of the nonprofit Doctors for Obama; he also served as a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He served in the position since 2013, after narrowly being confirmed when former President Barack Obama nominated him to the position.
It seems, however, that Murthy’s tenure would not survive the Trump administration; this is not surprising, as many administrations replace all the appointees nominated by the previous administration. What is surprising is the suddenness of Murthy’s dismissal, coming late Friday evening, especially considering that no one has been nominated to take his place.
Gizmodo is reporting that Murthy has been replaced by Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams; all social media accounts have already been scrubbed clean of the doctor’s presence in favor of introducing Trent-Adams. No departing statement from Murthy was given, nor was there any explanation for his sudden departure.
A statement from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which was released via email, was short, reading:
“Today, Dr. Murthy, the leader of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, was asked to resign from his duties as Surgeon General after assisting in a smooth transition into the new Trump Administration.”
It is important to note here that Surgeon General Trent-Adams is the first ever non-medical doctor to hold the position; she is a registered nurse with a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Maryland. She also served in the Navy and has a distinguished record of service.
The United States Surgeon General is not a position that can affect much; there is little official power given to the position. In fact, the Surgeon General often acts as the public voice for the medical community, allowing researchers to get the information from relevant studies out to the people who need to know the results.
There are many people speculating about what could be the reason behind Murthy’s quick and quiet dismissal from the post of Surgeon General. Many people believe it could be the Trump Administration cleaning house, although that doesn’t make sense as the administration still has yet to fill 60 percent of the open positions throughout the administration. It could also be a matter of wanting someone who holds the same ideological ideas as Trump; that Murthy and Trump are on opposite sides of most issues would be an understatement.
It’s perhaps true, then, that the latter is more plausible than the former; while the Trump administration has been cleaning house, the fact remains that on several issues, Murthy and the President couldn’t be farther apart.
Among perhaps the most public of these issues lies vaping, an issue that Murthy has been stubborn on, even going so far as to publish a biased report on the effects on young people if they choose to vape. He’s called vaping a “gateway drug to smoking” and has pushed for the FDA to categorize the habit as a tobacco product, even though vape products do not use tobacco in their liquids.
Under the Obama Administration, vaping has suffered a great deal, most notably with the introduction of the so-called “deeming rule.” This was the assertion from the FDA, with the full support of the Surgeon General, that vaping should be categorized as a tobacco product; vape products do not contain tobacco and have even developed synthetic nicotine to ensure that products are 100 percent tobacco-free. The law, however, was passed and put into place in August of last year with severe repercussions for the vaping industry.
Vaping is a small business industry within the United States; more than 80 percent of all companies have less than 250 employees, and most average around 50 employees.
But with the deeming rule, all businesses that produce vape liquids are required to undergo an application process in order to keep their products on the market. These applications are required for every e-liquid flavor and nicotine level, resulting in millions of dollars that will go to the FDA and legal teams, just for small businesses to stay open.
As the market has already seen, the fact that the FDA’s arbitrary predicate date of February 15, 2007, leaves virtually all of the vape business at the peril of bankruptcy; indeed, some already have closed. That means that the vape industry will largely be controlled by Big Tobacco, which has made sizable strides in the development of new vaping technologies in the last few years.
The San Diego Tribune is reporting that the removal of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General bodes well for the vape industry; it is thought that President Trump is in favor of more lenient regulations, especially for small businesses, and that the installation of a new Surgeon General will echo that sentiment.
It’s also an important step for the new president, as he made a campaign promise to roll back regulations that are stifling small businesses in the country. Indeed, the FDA regulations have throttled the vape industry to the point of near-extinction in several regions in the US.
The vape community has been vocal about supporting President Trump for this campaign promise, one that he’s already made good on; in his first 100 days, he signed an executive order that stipulated that for each new regulation, two must be rescinded. It is hoped that this will affect the industry sooner rather than later.
In fact, some political insiders speculate that vaping was an issue of concern for many small business owners, and it may have helped President Trump in the election. Conservative tax-reform activist Grover Norquist spoke about this assumption back in February, saying that:
“I think that the next election, at the presidential level, and a lot of other levels, is going to be determined by the vaping community.”
Following the appointment of Health Secretary Tom Price and Scott Gottlieb, the nominee to head the FDA, the dismissal of Dr. Vivek Murthy seems right along the lines of an administration ready to battle over regulation in a variety of areas, including vaping. All three appointees seem to be friendly with the vape industry as well as critics of regulation, leading to hope by the industry that some regulations will be rolled back in order to expand the industry.
This change in leadership, brought on by the Trump Administration, may seem quick, but it could provide the vape industry with the boost that it needs. It is hoped that with this change in regime comes a change in the conversation surrounding vaping, allowing for some of the most severe regulations to be rolled back. Now al that anyone can do is wait and see what changes, if any, the vape industry can expect.