House Republicans press FDA to expedite approval process for smoke-free tobacco products

EXCLUSIVE — A growing number of House Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to expedite the approval process for smoke-free tobacco products through the Food and Drug Administration to expand options to consumers looking to quit smoking. 

In a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Monday, a group of nearly 70 House Republicans led by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) pressed the president to move forward with long-pending applications for new smoke-free products to be approved by the FDA. 

“Not only has the FDA’s inaction continued to deprive American smokers with greater choice, but it has also contributed to the proliferation of illicit nicotine-containing products coming into the U.S. from markets like China, many of which are intentionally designed to appeal to youth,” the letter states. “This is a matter of public health. According to an ever-increasing amount of scientific research, smoke-free products hold enormous potential for current smokers to quit by switching to these less harmful products.”

The letter cites more than 26 million applications to market smoke-free products since Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, with only 50 that have been approved. Even fewer, less than 10, are commercially available in the United States, while others have been waiting for more than three years for approval.

However, during this same time period the FDA has authorized thousands of combustible product applications, according to the letter. 

“We must continue to work together to prevent underage use of these alternative products, and we urge your administration to encourage the FDA to review smoke-free product applications more effectively and efficiently and to make those determinations on sound science,” the letter states. 

The letter comes after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for stronger regulation of products such as Zyn, warning the nicotine pouches are being marketed to underage consumers. That suggestion prompted pushback from several conservative lawmakers who argued the product could help “improve public health” as a “less harmful” nicotine product. 

GOP lawmakers acknowledged the risk of underage use in their letter to Biden on Monday, emphasizing that “youth should not have access to nicotine-containing products, nor should youth be subject to marketing or advertising of these products.”

However, they noted, Congress should not restrict access to products that “have proven effective in converting smokers or reducing cigarette consumption.”

“Smoke-free products not only help people quit smoking, but they give Americans a choice,” Hudson said in a statement. “Yet, President Biden’s FDA is sitting on millions of applications for alternative products and has barely approved any. Rather than pandering to Big Brother Schumer’s demands, the FDA should put politics aside and focus on swiftly approving applications, so Americans can have more options.”

The Biden administration has previously come under fire for its plans for smoking products, particularly its long-awaited announcement on whether to implement a menthol cigarette ban. Lawmakers and advocacy groups alike have criticized the proposal, arguing it would lead to an increase in illicit sales as well as inconsistent enforcement.

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At least 58 lawmakers have signed on to the letter so far, which is co-led by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA). 

The Washington Examiner contacted the White House for comment but has not yet received a response.

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