FDA’s top tobacco scientist has left his job to work for tobacco giant Philip Morris

FDA’s top tobacco scientist has left his job to work for tobacco giant Philip Morris – the maker of Marlboro cigarettes – at the same time the agency struggles to regulate the vaping market and tries to ban Juul e-cigarettes

  • FDA tobacco scientist Matt Holman is going to work at Philip Morris International
  • The agency announced his career change in an internal memo on Tuesday
  • Holman had been on leave ahead of his departure and ‘recused himself from all CTP/FDA work while exploring career opportunities outside of government’
  • Holman’s departures comes as the FDA struggles to regulate the vaping market and tried to ban the sale of Juul e-cigarettes nationwide
  • Holman said he was drawn to Philip Morris because of its goal to push smokers from using cigarettes to noncombustible and less harmful products
  • The former FDA worker also played a key role in e-cigarette approvals, including that of Philip Morris’ IQOS device

Matt Holman, the FDA's top tobacco scientist, has left the agency to work for Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes

Matt Holman, the FDA’s top tobacco scientist, has left the agency to work for Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes

The FDA‘s top tobacco scientist has left the agency to work for the maker of Marlboro cigarettes amid efforts to regulate the vaping market.

Matt Holman, chief of the office of science in the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products, announced his departure from the FDA on Tuesday, effective immediately.

The biochemist and agency employee of more than 20 years has accepted a position at Philip Morris International, a memo from CTP Director Brian King revealed.

Holman had been on leave prior to his resignation, however King alleged the former chief ‘recused himself, consistent with agency ethics policies, from all CTP/FDA work while exploring career opportunities outside of government.’

His departure comes just weeks after the federal regulator temporarily reversed its June decision to ban Juul e-cigarettes from being sold in stores. 

Philip Morris, although most known for production of Marlboro cigarettes, is also a producer of e-cigarettes and e-vapor devices.

Holman's departure comes just weeks after the federal regulator temporarily reversed its June decision to ban Juul e-cigarettes from being sold in stores. Philip Morris (NYC headquarters pictured) is also a producer of e-cigarettes and e-vapor devices

Holman’s departure comes just weeks after the federal regulator temporarily reversed its June decision to ban Juul e-cigarettes from being sold in stores. Philip Morris (NYC headquarters pictured) is also a producer of e-cigarettes and e-vapor devices

Few details about the nature of Holman’s new position have been unveiled.

The scientist told The New York Times on Wednesday that his role at Philip Morris had been ‘broadly defined’ but involved working on tobacco harm-reduction efforts. He will also provide input on regulatory submissions. 

He also noted he was drawn to the agency because of its goal to push smokers from using cigarettes to noncombustible and less harmful products.

‘They are taking the actions that I think would align with such a goal,’ Dr. Holman said. ‘And that’s what really drew my attention to P.M.I. I’m going there not to help them sell more cigarettes, but the opposite.’ 

The company, in a statement to Politico, said they would provide more details about Holman’s employment at a later date and instead applauded his storied career at the FDA.

‘Dr. Holman has spent a substantial portion of his career dedicated to scientific and policy issues that aim to improve public health,’ a spokesperson said.

‘He is committed to helping existing adult smokers access scientifically substantiated smoke-free alternatives while protecting youth. We are looking forward to him joining our team as we continue to pursue a smoke-free future.’

Philip Morris did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment. 

His departure was announced by CTP Director Brian King in a memo on Tuesday, which has since been made public by Stat News Correspondent Nicholas Florko

His departure was announced by CTP Director Brian King in a memo on Tuesday, which has since been made public by Stat News Correspondent Nicholas Florko

In his Tuesday memo – which was made public by Stat News Correspondent Nicholas Florko – King applauded Holman for helping CTP through a ‘critical time,’ which included ‘including preparing for and overseeing review for the bolus of premarket tobacco product applications.’

He said that although he and Holman ‘didn’t have an opportunity to work together,’ he was ‘grateful’ for his contributions to the agency and ‘wishes him well in his next chapter.’

Holman’s resignation adds to already ongoing trouble within the FDA’s tobacco control division, which is currently under review by agency commissioner Robert Califf. The division also lost longtime director Mitch Zeller when he retired in April.

Critics argue Holman’s career change is concerning due to the ‘revolving door’ between federal officials and corporations they regulate.

However, federal rules governing career changes do not prohibit an official who oversees regulatory matters from leaving the agency and then joining corporations with products under review. 

Rules do restrict Holman – or any other former FDA employee – from appearing before the agency about issues he ‘participated personally and substantially during government service.’ 

‘This is legal. That’s the bottom line,’ Dr. Michael Carome, director of the Public Citizen health research group, told the Times. ‘It’s this type of revolving door move that really undermines public confidence in the agency.’ 

Critics argue Holman's career change is concerning due to the 'revolving door' between federal officials and corporations they regulate. PICTURED: Cigarettes moves along a machine during the assembly process at the Philip Morris International production facility in Medellin, Colombia in June 2017

Critics argue Holman’s career change is concerning due to the ‘revolving door’ between federal officials and corporations they regulate. PICTURED: Cigarettes moves along a machine during the assembly process at the Philip Morris International production facility in Medellin, Colombia in June 2017

Those skeptical of the move are also questioning the recent approval of the Philip Morris smokeless tobacco product which is an electronic device that, unlike e-cigarettes, contains tobacco.

The Philip Morris product isn’t currently sold in the US due to patent issues, but if those were to be resolved it could possibly hit store shelves.

Holman played a key role in e-cigarette approvals, including that of Philip Morris’ IQOS device.

Dr. Stanton Glantz, a retired professor of medicine, argued the agency’s approval of IQOS ‘disregarded valid scientific evidence and misapplied the public health standard mandated by law.’

He claims Holman ignored a major study showing that e-cigarette use was not associated with reduced smoking rates and that approving vapes is not combating the problem of dual-use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

‘He’s the one who signed off on these approvals,’ he said. ‘They deal with all of these issues by ignoring it, by relying on out-of-date studies.’

Earlier this month, the FDA temporarily restored the sale of Juul e-cigarettes after reviewing the company's appeal of a decision to pull the products from the market (file photo)

Earlier this month, the FDA temporarily restored the sale of Juul e-cigarettes after reviewing the company’s appeal of a decision to pull the products from the market (file photo)

Earlier this month, the FDA temporarily restored the sale of Juul e-cigarettes after reviewing the company’s appeal of a decision to pull the products from the market.

The FDA chose to reject the company’s application to remain on store shelves in late June as part of a larger crackdown on teen smoking and the tobacco industry overall.

While many other major e-cigarette manufacturers were allowed to remain on shelves, Juul was instead rejected. The San Francisco, California, company appealed the decision.

On July 5, America’s top regulator agency cited ‘scientific issues’ as a reason to stay the ban and allow the products to temporarily return. 

‘This administrative stay temporarily suspends the marketing denial order during the additional review but does not rescind it,’ the agency wrote in a tweet.

‘All electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS products, including those made by JUUL, are required by law to have FDA authorization to be legally marketed. The stay and the agency’s review does not constitute authorization to market, sell, or ship JUUL products.’ 

Juul rocketed to popularity in the U.S. in the 2010s, as its fruit flavored nicotine products became trendy among younger smokers – leading to the company also shouldering blame for increases in teen smoking.

To limit rises in teen smoking, the FDA banned fruit flavored e-cigarette devices, and forced each company to apply individually to allow their products to remain on shelves. Juul was expected to have its application approved.

Juul has branded its products as devices that can help those addicted to nicotine slowly ween themselves off safely – as vape devices do not have many of the same downsides as smoking tobacco cigarettes do.

Instead, though, the fruity and mint flavors in many of its devices have led to many children and teens picking up smoking – when they likely would not have otherwise.

This has placed Juul, and the e-cigarette market in general, in the FDA’s crosshairs in recent years.

Source

Related posts