This isn’t one of the flashy appointments which attracts the most media attention, but Donald Trump’s decision to put Tom Price at the head of Health and Human Services could be very good news in a running battle we’ve been covering here for some time. Larry already wrote about the role Price is likely to play in removing and replacing Obamacare, but we need to keep in mind that HHS is also in charge of the Food and Drug Administration. (FDA) Under the Obama administration, the FDA has been the source of far too many regulatory battles where conservatives have come out on the losing end.
This is particularly true on the subject of tobacco regulations. The FDA has been combative toward vaping (which has allowed so many smokers to finally get off of tobacco) rather than embracing it as a less harmful alternative. Other options, such as the smokeless Snus, have similarly run into trouble because the agency wouldn’t grant the manufacturer authority to label them has a healthier alternative to cigarettes. They followed a similar pattern when it comes to the labeling of cigars, where their actions have driven up manufacturing and packaging costs which put smaller producers at risk.
How do we know Price’s intentions on these fronts? There’s nothing written in stone of course, but we do have some history to draw on. In 2008, Price voted against a bill designed to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco. The same sort of proposal came up again in 2009 and Price once again gave it a thumbs down. Further, Price was a cosponsor of a bill in 2012 which would have exempted producers of large, premium cigars from certain FDA regulations and user fees. (He signed on to a second, very similar bill in 2013.)
Again, there’s nothing definitive here, but one would assume that the subject of burdensome regulations must have come up when Trump was meeting with Price to discuss this appointment. On the campaign trail. the President Elect went directly after the “food police” at the FDA and promised reforms on this front as recently as two months ago.
In a fact sheet posted online Thursday, the campaign highlighted a number of “specific regulations to be eliminated” under the GOP nominee’s economic plan, including what they called the “FDA Food Police.”
“The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food,” it read.
“The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when,” the statement continued. “It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.”
That’s the precise type of attitude we need and Trump has been singing the same tune as Tom Price every step of the way. Fortunately for all of us, most of the sore spots on the HHS and FDA regulatory front don’t require cooperation from Congress or the courts. These are things which can essentially be tidied up with a stroke of the pen once Trump and Price are in office. Now we just need to stay on top of these promises and make sure the new administration carries through.