FDA Is Outlier in Trump's Deregulation Administration

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President Trump has presided over undeniably successful deregulation efforts across the executive branch.  At his re-election campaign announcement in Orlando, he touted his record on “the growing economy, the tax cuts, and deregulation.” Right up there with the economy and tax cuts, the president holds deregulation as one of his top priorities and successes.

And it’s easy to see why.

After Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, which repealed the Obamacare individual mandate, the administration expanded the hardship exemption provision, saving people millions of dollars in 2018.

Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump to lead the Federal Communications Commission, successfully repealed net neutrality last year. Despite doomsday predictions by some that this would mean the end of the Internet as we know it, news broke recently that the average Internet speed in the U.S. increased 28% in the past year.

Just last month, the Environmental Protection Agency implemented a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with less restrictive regulations. Instead of one-size-fits-all greenhouse gas emissions standard on power plants, the new rule sends power back to the state to decide how individual facilities can become more efficient. States are in a better position than unelected bureaucrats to understand where efficiencies can be made at their power plants.

President Trump’s zeal for streamlining government has gone so far that he has proposed dismantling the Office of Personnel Management entirely and dispersing its responsibilities among three other agencies.

The one dark spot on this otherwise successful deregulation agenda is the Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced their new e-cigarette policy aimed ostensibly at reversing the recent increase in teen smoking. The policy states that certain flavored e-cigarette products can only be sold in stores that don’t allow minors in, or have rooms that are only for customers 18 and older.

Unfortunately, these big-government guidelines are not supported by research and are bad for small businesses.

First, the facts do not support the FDA’s position on e-cigarettes. The premise for the policy is that stores that are limited to 18 and older are better at enforcing age restrictions on e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Ironically, the latest research has found that the opposite is true. Vape and tobacco shops, which technically don’t allow minors in at all, sold three and four times as many e-cigarettes to underage teens than convenience stores did.

Second, this burdensome regulation is anti-free market and will hurt small businesses. As you can imagine, your local convenience store will probably not be building a separate room that is restricted to customers 18 and older just to sell flavored e-cigarette pods. This requirement, in practice, completely cuts certain stores out of this market in favor of other stores that, as explained, actually have a worse record of selling these products to minors.

I completely understand the concern of FDA officials who want to address teen smoking. As a doctor, I know the negative health effects of smoking on the development of teens. But the unelected bureaucrats in the federal government should not be enacting policies that won’t work to do anything but hurt some small businesses in favor of others.

As President Trump ramps up his reelection campaign, I expect he will continue to campaign on the successful deregulation efforts of his administration. I just hope that his rhetoric will resonate with whoever the next FDA commissioner is.

Ron Paul is a former Republican member of Congress who served from 1997-2013 and 1979-1985.

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