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Biden’s FDA clears path for Chinese products to flood US tobacco, nicotine market

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under President Biden is facing intense scrutiny for what critics have described as ineffective regulation of tobacco and nicotine, allegedly caving to political pressure to ban vapes and e-cigarettes as potential alternatives to traditional smoking while simultaneously allowing Chinese products to flood the U.S. market.

The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) is charged with regulating the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. However, the CTP has been under fire for its approach to vapes, e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

While the FDA is cracking down on ENDS, it’s also allowing illicit and unregulated products to flood the market — including from China.

The FDA has sent hundreds of warning letters to companies marketing illegal e-cigarettes containing tobacco-derived nicotine, but it’s unclear whether additional enforcement actions were taken. Reports have highlighted how vape companies regularly flout the FDA’s orders and make, stock and sell illicit goods that can be seen at countless smoke shops and online retailers that aren’t approved by the FDA.

Commissioner of the FDA Dr. Robert Califf testifies during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 14, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Commissioner of the FDA Dr. Robert Califf testifies during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


Many of these products were made in China. Indeed, at least 20 brands continue to sell China-made disposable devices with kid-friendly flavors such as “peach blueberry candy” and “pineapple strawnana” at liquor stores, smoke shops and convenience stores across the U.S., according to Reuters.

Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb is one prominent voice who’s spotlighted the problem.

“Synthetic nicotine is being used in products like Puff Bar, that are manufactured in China and other nations, and imported into the U.S. and specifically targeted to youth,” he tweeted. “This is exactly opposite what Congress intended through its public health efforts. There are also U.S. tobacco companies that are largely following the rules, that are making investment in potentially less harmful alternatives to combustible tobacco, that pay taxes and fees on products – all while the foreign-made synthetic products evade the same requirements.”

In Congress, meanwhile, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla, in February introduced legislation to close loopholes concerning ENDS containing flavors that could be enticing to children.

“Chinese manufacturers and suppliers are flooding the U.S. market with unregulated, harmful substances that are altering our children’s brain development and live,” she said in a statement.

A month later, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the FDA to investigate Elf Bar, a new Chinese e-cigarette that is being advertised on social media.

“Elf Bar is littering TikTok and Instagram, using influencers they pay directly, to push the e-cig to kids and teens,” he said in a statement. “This kind of ploy might totally evade FDA advertising rules, and we have to get ahead of it.”

However, critics warn that targeting one company at a time won’t solve the problem, because replacements will just pop up, posing a particular challenge for children. According to the Department of Health and Human Service’s inspector general, the FDA’s approach to overseeing online tobacco retailers “raises questions about the effectiveness of FDA’s efforts to prevent youth access to tobacco products online. In the first 10 years of its oversight, FDA’s actions toward online tobacco retailers were limited to warning letters and its oversight has had poor transparency.”

Republican Kentucky Rep. James Comer

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter in March to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf demanding documents to conduct oversight of the agency’s regulation of tobacco and nicotine products through CTP. He didn’t hold back in expressing his concerns, arguing that the agency’s regulatory system has led to “enforcement failures” and “suspicions of political interference.”

“CTP has fostered uncertainty in the marketplace and has allowed unsafe and unregulated products to proliferate,” wrote Comer. “Therefore, we seek documents and information regarding CTP’s activities to enable transparency and to ensure the CTP is performing required functions. . . . If products are allowed to go to market or stay on the market without authorized applications, then the entire regulatory effort would appear to be pointless.”

Comer’s letter came after the Reagan-Udall Foundation published a recent report at the request of Califf evaluating the CTP’s tobacco regulatory programs. The report — the product of a panel of independent experts who concluded that “fundamental policy and scientific issues remain unanswered that the center must address” — was unable to identify a comprehensive plan that clearly articulates CTP’s goals and priorities.

“CTP is perceived as being reactive and overwhelmed, versus proactive and strategic,” the report said, adding that the center lacks clarity and transparency in how it makes decisions — especially when it comes to weighing scientific information versus policy judgments.

“Failure to take timely enforcement action jeopardizes public health and undermines FDA’s credibility and effectiveness in tobacco product regulation,” the report added. “The agency has not been transparent regarding the reasons it has failed to clear the market of illegal products, or even whether its policy preference is to do so, contributing to stakeholder frustration and, in some situations, additional litigation.”

According to Comer, the evaluation shows that the agency “appears to be unable to perform its basic functions and ensure that Americans have access to products that have the potential to lower the rate of smoking-related disease and death.”

Tobacco store

Coon Rapids, Minnesota, Colorful tobacco and vape shop. (Photo by: Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


When reached for comment for this story, the FDA pointed Fox News Digital to recent agency statements concerning tobacco regulation. In the agency’s official response to the Reagan-Udall report, Brian King, director of CTP, indicated that it would place a newfound emphasis on strategic planning.

“Effective immediately, CTP will initiate the development of a comprehensive 5-year strategic plan, building upon the foundation of the center’s previous strategic plans,” King said in the response. “Given the profound impact of tobacco-related disparities across CTP’s programmatic portfolio, the plan will include advancing health equity as a central tenet and focus on being proactive in its activities.”

The agency also listed other ways it plans on responding to the report’s varied recommendations.

However, it is unclear how the FDA will address one of the major concerns of close observers: the politicization of agency decision-making.

“We have deep concerns that CTP’s decisions have been influenced by political concerns
rather than scientific evidence,” Comer wrote in his letter.

Such concerns are apparent in comments from FDA staff to the Reagan-Udall Foundation that are no longer available on its website but present an agency that is struggling to fulfill its mandate. According to the Tobacco Reporter, one commenter said that “scientific disagreement is frowned upon, if not entirely suppressed, and punished through various backhanded methods.” They added that leadership is “unsupportive of a reviewer’s fundamental duty to provide an unbiased review using the best available science.” Another commenter said that “in cases where reviews are finished and scientific decisions are made, they are also overruled by political agendas and pushed to change decisions.”

FDA sign

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Reuters/Andrew Kelly/File Photo)


Meanwhile, the FDA is facing political pressure from Capitol Hill to prevent ENDS from going to market. For example, several Democrats in Congress have pushed the agency to deny the applications of Juul Labs Inc., an e-cigarette company, and remove its products from the market. 

At a congressional hearing in June 2021, at which the FDA commissioner was testifying, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said that “e-cigarettes have hooked a generation of young people on nicotine. The FDA has an obligation to intervene and protect our children.” Fellow Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz added, “To be clear, you should reject all of Juul’s products, all of them, given what we know about how Juul marketed and addicted kids to their product.”

Several other Democrats, including in the Senate, similarly demanded a ban on Juul.

The demands continued into 2022, with Democratic lawmakers writing letters to the FDA chief. Then, on June 22 of that year, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., issued a statement calling on Califf to more tightly regulate e-cigarettes or “step aside.” The next day, the FDA banned Juul products from being sold in the U.S. by issuing marketing-denial orders.

The day after that, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said he was “heartened” by the FDA’s decisions following a “long conversation” he had with agency officials. He added he’s “glad that at least we have an ally in the FDA commissioner.”

The agency has since put its order denying Juul on hold, saying that “there are scientific issues unique to the Juul application that warrant additional review.”

Beyond Juul and e-cigarettes, Democrats have similarly pressured the FDA to crack down on menthol vape products, arguing that ENDS flavored as anything other than tobacco can appeal to kids. Throughout 2021 and 2022, Democratic lawmakers repeatedly sent letters to the FDA chief and said in hearings that the agency should continue denying all flavored ENDS — especially menthol ones, despite the agency previously stating that kids prefer and use flavors such as fruit and mint “much more” than tobacco or menthol. In January 2020, before the Biden administration, the FDA said that tobacco and menthol-flavored ENDS were not among the agency’s enforcement priorities.

Nonetheless, following an ongoing campaign on Capitol Hill, the FDA in October 2022 issued its first marketing-denial orders for menthol ENDS based on a full scientific review.

Months later, the drug-focused publication Filter reported that internal FDA memos showed that the CTP’s Office of Science had actually recommended to authorize menthol-flavored vaping products as permissible to go to market. However, according to the report, the office later reversed course due to pressure from agency leadership after the office of CTP Director Brian King intervened.

In this Monday, June 17, 2019, photo, Joshua Ni, 24, and Fritz Ramirez, 23, vape from electronic cigarettes in San Francisco.

In this Monday, June 17, 2019, photo, Joshua Ni, 24, and Fritz Ramirez, 23, vape from electronic cigarettes in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado)


“These documents appear to reveal substantial disagreement within CTP, one that could be framed as the agency’s scientists battling against its bureaucratic upper ranks, who have the FDA commissioner, and ultimately Congress, to answer to,” the Filter wrote of the documents it had reviewed. “It can all be viewed, in other words, as a fight between science and politics.”

In April, the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust filed a complaint accusing the FDA of “knowing dissemination of scientifically unfounded statements about the vaping industry that were contrary to the FDA’s own research” and “overruling its own scientists’ recommendations to authorize menthol-vapes without proper scientific justification and in contradiction of the FDA’s own research.”

A product is deemed permissible to go to market and appropriate for public health based largely on the likelihood of it transitioning adults away from cigarettes without introducing a new generation to nicotine.

In this June 17, 2019, file photo, a cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco.

In this June 17, 2019, file photo, a cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado, File)


An estimated 47 million U.S. adults currently use tobacco products, and nearly 80% of them use combustible products such as cigarettes, “which are responsible for the overwhelming burden of tobacco-related disease and death,” Califf and King note in a recent article they co-authored.

Since 2005, the percentage of adult smokers in the U.S. has decreased from 20.9% to 12.5%. However, there are still about 30 million adult smokers across the country, where cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to one study cited by Califf and King in their article, “there was high certainty that quit rates were higher in people randomized to nicotine [e-cigarettes] than in those randomized to nicotine replacement therapy.”

Other research indicates that daily ENDS use “was significantly associated with an 8-fold greater odds of cigarette discontinuation compared with no e-cigarette use” for U.S. adults who had no plans to ever quit smoking.


The FDA, which maintains that no tobacco product can be considered safe, has not authorized a single menthol-flavored ENDS product to date. As of January, the agency had completed review of, and made determinations on, more than 99% of tobacco products and authorized 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices. These are the only e-cigarette products that currently may be lawfully sold in the U.S.



New York Gov Hochul wants to ‘limit’ who crosses border, says it’s ‘too open right now’

Democrat New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday called on Congress to “limit” who crosses the border, saying it’s “too open right now.”

Ironically repeating what congressional Republicans have long demanded from the Biden administration, Hochul made the plea during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

CBS host Margaret Brennan noted there were no border provisions in the federal spending deal struck by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this weekend to avoid a government shutdown, asking Hochul what she would want Congress to get done in the next 45 days.

“Well, shame on Speaker McCarthy and the Republicans in Congress, including the nine from New York State, who are complaining like crazy about the migrants but refuse to work with President Biden and come up with a sensible border strategy. It can be done. This can be done in a bipartisan way. Comprehensive immigration reform,” Hochul began before Brennan interjected by asking what she was specifically wanting from Congress to address the migrant crisis in her state.


Kathy Hochul press conference

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul demands “comprehensive immigration reform.” (Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images / File)

“Well, we want them to have a limit on who can come across the border. It is too open right now,” Hochul said. “People coming from all over the world are finding their way through simply saying they need asylum. And the majority of them seem to be ending up in the streets of New York. And that is a real problem for New York City, 125,000 newly arrived individuals. And we are being taxed.”

“We are always so proud of the fact that New York has the Statue of Liberty in our harbor. We are one of the most diverse places on Earth because of our welcoming nature, and it’s in our DNA to welcome immigrants. But there has to be some limits in place. And Congress has to put more controls at the border and not in this budget threat, shutdown threat, talk about eliminating positions for Border Patrol when we actually need to double or quadruple those numbers. So, get back to work and do your jobs,” the governor added.

National Guard troops address migrant crisis

A migrant shows his documents to Army servicemen at the entrance to the Roosevelt Hotel, converted into a city-run shelter for newly arrived migrant families, in New York City on Sept. 27, 2023. (Selcuk Acar / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


Several critics online unleashed on Hochul for apparently changing her tune since espousing New York as a sanctuary state and encouraging people to come in 2021.

More than 125,000 migrants have since arrived in New York City since last year, and Hochul recently secured a deal with the Biden administration to expedite work authorizations and delayed deportations for Venezuelans seeking asylum. Hochul activated an additional 150 National Guard members last week to address the migrant crisis and help with case management to get asylum seekers work permit. The move increased the total number of National Guard troops dedicated to the mission to 2,200.

NYC migrant lines

Migrants line up in front of the Roosevelt Hotel, converted into a city-run shelter for newly arrived migrant families, in New York City, on Sept. 27, 2023. (Selcuk Acar / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


Yet New York City Mayor Eric Adams, whose relationship has soured with fellow Democrat Biden by repeatedly demanding more federal assistance on the migrant crisis over the past several months, has said the more new waves of arriving migrants are from African nations, China and even Russia, indicating a potential growing security risk compared to the initial influxes from Latin America. Adams is pushing a controversial “decompression strategy” to resettle migrants outside the city.

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Gaetz slammed for bailing out Dems in budget battle, giving them potential leverage in ousting speaker

A bid by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has earned scorn from some fellow Republicans, who fear the Florida lawmaker is handing leverage to Democrats in the continuing battle over the budget.

“The only way he can be successful is if he has 200 plus Democrats,” Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., said during an appearance on “Sunday Morning Futures” with host Maria Bartiromo. “Basically, Gaetz is going to work with Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries, and the rest of the Democrats in order to remove the Republican speaker… If you remove a Republican speaker, that then puts the Democrats in power, these investigations will be done and stalled. That is unacceptable of Matt Gaetz.”

Smith’s comments come after the House passed a continuing resolution Saturday that will fund the government at current levels through mid-November, angering some Republicans who believe the measure is a violation of GOP promises to pass 12 individual spending bills that prioritize conservative polices.


Gaetz and AOC split image

Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

One such Republican was Gaetz, who opposed the resolution and threatened to trigger a House-wide vote on whether to remove McCarthy from the speakership.

Under the terms of a deal McCarthy struck with conservatives during the vote that elevated him to speaker, any lawmaker is allowed to trigger a vote, known as a motion to vacate, and attempt to remove him from the speakership.

“The one thing everyone seems to have in common is no one trusts Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz told reporters Saturday. “I’ve said that whether or not Kevin McCarthy faces a motion to vacate is entirely within his control, because all he had to do was comply with the agreement that he made with us in January.”

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., called Gaetz’s comment on removing McCarthy a “diatribe of delusional thinking” during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, noting that the government is currently divided and any bill the House hopes to pass will have to gain support from both the Senate and President Biden.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


“When you’re trying to break the system, when you’re trying to reform it, it takes time,” Lawler said. “The only responsible thing to do was to keep the government open and funded while we complete our work.”

While Lawler acknowledged that he shares the Florida lawmaker’s concerns about current spending levels, he argued that putting a motion to vacate on the House floor would “delay the ability to complete” GOP efforts to pass a more conservative budget “over the next 45 days.”

Sen. MarkWayne Mullin, R-Okla., tore into Gaetz during a Sunday interview on “FOX & Friends Weekend,” saying the only thing he cares about is “self-promotion.”

“Well, Matt Gaetz is not a principle guy. He’s not a policy guy. He’s about self-promotion. It’s all about Matt Gaetz. And he’s accusing Speaker McCarthy of working with the Democrats, which the irony of this is the only way he can possibly remove Speaker McCarthy is that he has to work with the Democrats,” Mullin said. “And Speaker McCarthy will have 200 votes all day long and probably more from the Republicans. So that means the most he’s going to get is 20. So he’s going to have to work with 198 Democrats to remove the House Republican speaker.”

“Matt Gaetz is all about himself,” Mullin continued. “Remember, none of the networks would give him the time of the day after he was accused of sleeping with the underage girl and now all of a sudden he’s found his fame because he opposes Speaker McCarthy and he’s going to ride this horse as long as he can.”

Rep. Gaetz has repeatedly denied this allegation and the Justice Department “confirmed to Congressman Gaetz’s attorneys that their investigation has concluded and that he will not be charged with any crimes,” according to a statement previously given to Fox News Digital.

Rep Gaetz and Sen Mullin

Sen. MarkWayne Mullin, right, blasted Rep. Gaetz during a Sunday morning interview, saying the only thing he cares about is “self-promotion.” (Tom Williams/Al Drago)

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to ask whether Gaetz is “secretly an agent for the Democratic Party.” 

“No one else is doing as much to undermine, weaken and cripple the House GOP,” he added.

Rep. Greg Landsman, D-Ohio came to the defense of the center right Republicans arguing that Gaetz was only attempting to make himself “the center of attention.”

“Every time we all work together, he loses his mind. He doesn’t want the center left and center right to work together because he has to be the center of attention,” Landsman said in a statement posted to X. “When we do, he creates chaos to grab attention back. Matt Gaetz has no interest in governing. This is all about TV appearances for him. If he says it’s for any other reason, he’s lying. Just let us govern, which is what most of us came here to do.”


Some Democrats struck a celebratory tone after the continuing resolution cleared the House Saturday, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., taking to X to boast the party had “stripped” GOP efforts to make cuts to Social Security.

“We just won a clean 45 day gov extension, stripped GOP’s earlier 30% cuts to Social Security admin etc, staved off last minute anti-immigrant hijinks, and averted shutdown (for now),” Ocasio-Cortez said. “People will get paychecks and MTG (Marjorie Taylor Greene) threw a tantrum on the way out. Win-win.”


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Tom Williams/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, McCarthy downplayed fears while speaking to reporters Saturday.

“I never fear of that. But if I lose my job over looking out for the American public, for taking a stand for our troops and our border agents, then I’m not quite sure what people want. Because this allows us the time to get the job done,” McCarthy said. “If somebody wants to remove me from putting Americans first, then so be it.”

During an interview on ‘Face the Nation” Sunday, McCarthy said he will “survive” and Gaetz is “more interested in securing TV interviews.”

“Let’s get over with it. Let’s start governing. If he’s upset because he tried to push us into a shutdown and I made sure government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that talk,” McCarthy said.


For his part, Gaetz argued in comments to reporters Saturday that he was not focused on removing McCarthy, instead saying he will continue efforts to pass conservative budget bills.

“Right now, my focus is not on the motion to vacate. My focus is on averting a shutdown by passing these bills,” Gaetz said. “And if we do have a shutdown, which may be the case, I certainly want it to be as short and painless as possible.”

The offices of Gaetz and McCarthy did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.

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Rep. Bowman shocks media, conservatives with ‘garbage’ statement after pulling fire alarm

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., stunned conservatives and members of the media on Sunday after releasing multiple statements about pulling the fire alarm in a congressional office building. 

Bowman pulled the alarm on Saturday while lawmakers were voting on a bill to avoid a government shutdown. Bowman said in a statement that he was rushing to cast his vote on the bill. 

Bowman’s chief of staff, Sarah Iddrissu, said that Bowman “didn’t realize” he would trigger an alarm. 

“Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote,” Iddrissu wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The Congressman regrets any confusion.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman

U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman speaks at Grammys On The Hill: Advocacy Day on April 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.  ((Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for The Recording Academy))


Bowman posted another statement to X Saturday evening and again said he believed it would have opened the door.

“I want to personally clear up confusion surrounding today’s events. Today as I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes, but today would not be open. I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door,” Bowman said, apologizing for any confusion. 

He said that he did not intend to delay the vote, insisting it was the exact opposite. 

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said the statement put out by Bowman’s chief of staff was “complete garbage.”

“He did not realize deliberately pulling a fire alarm would … trigger a fire alarm. This statement is complete garbage,” he wrote.

Another Republican member of congress said the statement was “proof” of how far Democrats were willing to go in order to force a shutdown, while others doubted the excuse Bowman gave. 


Real Clear Politics’ Mark Hemingway said the statement was a “blatant lie” and deserved to be treated as such.

Other commentators described it as the “worst statement ever” and questioned how Bowman could claim to have set the alarm off by “mistake.”

Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler, the chair of Florida’s GOP, noted Bowman was a school principal and argued that his staff was lying. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also attempted to explain the incident on Sunday during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who said Bowman’s explanation made no sense. 

Bowman pulling fire alarm

Bowman appeared to pull the alarm on Saturday as Republicans began voting on the stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown. (U.S. Capitol Police)


“I think there’s something to be said that the government’s about to shut down, there’s a vote clock that’s going down, the exits that are normally open in that building were suddenly closed…” Ocasio-Cortez began to explain.

Tapper interjected and asked, “So he pulled the fire alarm?”

Ocasio-Cortez went on to suggest it was just a misunderstanding and said Bowman was cooperating with Capitol police. 


Fox News’ Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.

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