The tobacco outlook took a sharp turn in a positive direction over the summer when Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the newly appointed commissioner of the FDA, issued a document that suggests a remaking of current tobacco regulation.
In a July statement, Gottlieb said alternatives to combustible cigarettes, such as electronic cigarettes, are in need of further public discussion, and he extended deadlines for manufacturers to submit required new-product applications. Many manufacturers feared those applications would be costly and time-consuming, so the news came as a relief. Now instead of 2018 deadlines, products such as cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco have a deadline of Aug. 8, 2021, and e-cigarettes or vaping products have an Aug. 8, 2022, deadline.
Also part of the FDA’s new position was the concept of regulating nicotine levels in cigarettes, with the agency calling for input on benefits and adverse effects.
Retailers reacted with optimism. During an Aug. 3 investor call, Donnie Smith, vice president and controller for El Dorado, Ark.-based Murphy USA, expressed confidence that the FDA’s review would involve “real science and understanding the unintended consequences of any regulation.”