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CDC, FDA Are Failing At Their Basic Mission; These Three Experts Know How to Fix Them

How can Americans lead healthier lives?

Solutions include reforming the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), along with replacing cigarette smoking with safer nicotine delivery systems.

InsideSources recently hosted the “Common Sense Public Health Roundtable” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where three public health professionals laid out simple solutions that could pack a real public health punch.

“I would replace the FDA’s human food program, and I would replace it with something that would give both producers and consumers a better choice,” said Dr. Richard Williams. “And that would address food safety and nutrition problems that are plaguing us.” Williams, author of “Fixing Food: An FDA Insider Unravels the Myths and the Solutions,” worked at the FDA for nearly 30 years. “We treat FDA like it’s a revered institution when in fact, it’s like an old company that’s selling outdated products.”

The FDA is 117 years old, Williams noted, and “things are going on that they can’t keep up with.” He said while the most recent problem was the infant formula shortage, there have been a variety of other issues, especially with food safety and nutrition.

Thanks to a lack of innovation and little pressure from the public to improve, the results are underwhelming.

Every year, the FDA goes to Congress and asks for more money, making the same claims: 48 million people are getting sick from food-borne diseases, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die Williams noted.

“Nobody ever says, ‘You’ve been saying the same thing every year, and we keep giving you more money, and nothing’s happening,’” said Williams. “They write regulations… They’re out of ideas, and unfortunately, we all pay for this” with taxes, higher food prices, illness, and death.

“Should almond milk be called milk? They spent a couple of years trying to figure that out,” said Williams

“Nutrition is a bigger problem,” he said. “Four out of 10 people are obese in this country.” Half the population will be obese by 2023. And food labels don’t help. Since they started labeling in 1973, “half of us now are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Heart disease and cancer are going up.”

“In 2020, COVID killed 350,000 people in this country. Poor nutrition killed 500,000,” said Williams. And the FDA still uses “old science.”

He suggested the FDA use a model like DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) where the bureaucracy is minimal, and the agency can “develop new ideas.”

Among the steps, Williams suggested: Foods made in 3D printers; using robots in food production and intelligent packaging to signal that food is spoiled; and wearable nutrition devices that tell you what to eat and how much.

Clive Bates, editor of “The Counterfactual,” offered a basic yet bold public health policy. “Get rid of all smoking.”

About 480,000 people die from smoking each year, Bates noted, which is a huge number compared to other public health issues. And, he added, “another 16 million live in misery” from smoking-related diseases. Because smoking rates are far higher among lower socio-economic groups, targeting it also adds to social justice efforts. “If you can do something about smoking, you can do something about health disparities, which is a good thing.”

Bates argued the U.S. could do something about it. But it is just choosing not to, as a matter of public health policy.

Since 2010, there have been alternatives to what public health pros call “combustible cigarettes,” new products that provide nicotine without combustion.

“If you get rid of the smoke, you get rid of almost all the toxicant exposure,” said Bates. “People will continue to use nicotine but at much, much lower risk.” Government authorities in Great Britain have pegged the health risk from e-cigarettes, vaping, and other similar products at about 95 percent lower than smoking.

But instead of encouraging smokers to switch to lower-risk alternatives, as the U.K. has done, the FDA has been funding major marketing efforts targeting vaping and e-cigarettes, convincing smokers there is no health benefit from making the change.

As a result, most Americans incorrectly believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking.

One problem, Bates said, is that the FDA doesn’t know how to regulate something that comes with some risk but is far safer than the alternative. He said that vaping isn’t food or medicine; it is more like beer or coffee. It’s something people consume because they enjoy it.

“They don’t really know what they’re doing with these (smoking replacement) products,” he said. It would be better to consider them like coffee or moderate alcohol consumption. It’s pleasurable. It’s fun… It’s a harm reduction strategy. For people to use the products, they have to be appealing. Regulators have problems with that.”

And no, Bates added, the “F” in “FDA” does not stand for “fun.”

Dr. Brian Miller is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a doctor at Johns Hopkins University. He used his real-world experience to discuss the CDC’s failures in the fight against COVID-19.

“I worked on COVID wards, and normally during a pandemic, you go to the CDC for advice,” Miller said. “Well, you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and people are confined to their homes. You look up the CDC guidance, and the webpage hasn’t been updated. Or they don’t know.”

A pandemic caused by a communicable disease is the CDC’s reason for existence, and yet it wasn’t ready when the real thing happened. Why?

“The CDC’s mission has drifted,” he said. The agency started focusing on “current events” and health issues like the environment or addressing issues like racism and gun violence. Those healthcare issues keep the agency in the headlines but have little to do with the CDC’s job.

“Having an organization that is trying to be all things to all people all the time means that it cannot perform its basic functions, as we discovered during the pandemic.”

For Miller, the first step is obvious. “We should be directing our dollars to policy levers that work,” Miller said. “We should think about directing the CDC’s resources to its core mission and then some of those other funds and staff (could go to other agencies),” he said.

Also, the public should have the right to comment on CDC’s regulations.

“Public opinion still matters,” he said. “And public input matters.”

HOLY COW! HISTORY: The Gift That Killed General Grant

Watch out for unintended consequences. They’ll get you every time.

It happened 160 years ago when a simple act of courtesy set in motion a chain of events that wound up taking a famous American’s life.


When you hear “Ulysses S. Grant,” what comes to mind? The more scholarly-minded probably think, “Victor at Appomattox” or “18th President of the United States.” Big drunk, and even bigger cigar smoker, are top answers, too.

Yes, the old Yankee could drink to excess. Though in fairness, he only drank when he was lonely, depressed, and stuck with too much time on his hands. Whenever that happened they sent for Mrs. Grant and the boozing stopped.

As for his love of stogies, he was history’s original Cigar Aficionado. Here’s how it began.

For the first half of his life, Grant smoked something different. A woman who had been a slave on the farm he worked outside St. Louis later recalled, “He smoked a pipe, which his wife threw away whenever she could find it. She detested the pipe … At that time he chewed tobacco excessively also.”

Fast forward to Winter 1862. Grant cooked up a bold plan for a combined army-naval assault on the Confederate strongholds of Forts Henry and Donelson. They protected the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, the gateway to Nashville.

The brass in Washington green-lighted the operation. Fort Henry easily fell after a naval bombardment on February 6. Most of its men retreated a dozen miles to the other fort.

Donelson was a different story. Bigger and stronger with more defenders, it was a tougher nut to crack.

The naval flotilla tried again on February 14, but the gunboats were pushed back. Their commander, Flag Officer Andrew Foote, was seriously wounded in his foot. (Foote’s foot; how’s that for irony?)

The next day Foote asked Grant to confer with him on his flagship as he recovered. Foote offered the general a cigar, which Grant lit up as he rode back to headquarters. Years later, Grant described what came next.

“I was met by a staff officer, who announced the enemy was making a vigorous attack. I galloped forward and while riding among the troops giving directions for repelling the assault, I carried the cigar in my hand. It had gone out, but it seems I continued to hold it between my fingers throughout the battle.”

The Yankees repulsed the Confederates and the next morning the Rebels surrendered.

Capturing Fort Donelson was a big deal. Grant had won the Union’s first major victory, also becoming the first general since Washington to capture an entire enemy army. People celebrated across the North. The Chicago Tribune said the Windy City “reeled mad with joy.”

But amid the elation there was a major error. As Grant himself explained, “In the account published in the papers I was represented as smoking a cigar in the midst of the conflict; and many persons, no doubt thinking tobacco was my chief solace, sent me boxes of the choicest brands. As many as ten thousand were soon received.”

Think about that: 10,000 cigars! They came with notes of appreciation. One said, “You keep winning victories and I’ll keep sending cigars.”

Grant “re-gifted” them on a wholesale basis. But he couldn’t keep pace with the deluge. A practical man, he eventually decided, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Grant put away his pipe explaining, “I naturally smoked more (cigars) than I would have under ordinary circumstances, and have done so ever since.”

That was an understatement. From then on, soldiers rarely saw Grant without a cigar clamped in his mouth. It reached the point where he was smoking 20 stogies every day (almost one per hour). When the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg fell the following year Grant was smoking a cigar as he rode off to accept its surrender.

Ironically, as word of his cigar addiction spread, Grant took pains to avoid being photographed while smoking. In fact, only one such image is known to exist.

Meanwhile, the gift boxes kept coming. Grant told a fellow general, “There is one good thing about being the Commanding General. You get the best cigars.”

And yet, some people had problems with Grant’s habit. Consider the open letter to him in a Massachusetts newspaper: “We pray you to abandon your cigar on behalf of young America … Our boys, General! What shall we do with these expanding millions? We had a sufficiency of these young volcanoes before, but your example, running like wildfire, has kindled ten thousand more.”

Still, by the time Grant ran for president in 1868 his supporters sang a popular campaign song called, “A’smokin’ My Old Cigar.” (They just don’t write ditties like that anymore.)

All that puffing eventually took its toll. And the illness it produced brought out the best in Grant as a man.

After leaving the White House in 1877, Grant was swindled out of his life savings by fraudulent investors. It left him flat broke.

Just when things couldn’t get worse for the aging general and ex-president, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Thousands upon thousands of cigars had finally caught up with him.

Terminally ill and nearly destitute, there was nothing he could leave his wife. (That was decades before former presidents received a pension.) But Grant had one last thing of value.

Battling increasingly intense pain, he set about writing “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,” finishing it just days before his death at age 62 in 1885. It sold more than 300,000 copies, earning nearly half a million dollars and guaranteeing his widow, Julia, would spend the rest of her life in comfort.

Thus ended the journey that had begun 23 years earlier with the innocent question, “Care for a cigar, general?”

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An Open Letter From Ex-Smokers to Tobacco Control: You’re Killing Us. Literally

I smoked for 41 years and then finally quit smoking with vaping more than eight ago. I’ve owned and operated a vape shop for nearly seven years, helping more than 2,000 people in my small community to quit smoking with the help of flavored vapor products.

And I have a message for the Food and Drug Administration and its “Tobacco Control” allies: Your treatment of vaping is killing people. And you need to stop Tobacco Control, by which I mean the legislatures, regulatory bodies, policymakers, academia and research, the public “health” lobby groups and, of course, a complicit media. I’m painting all of you with the same brush because, from my perspective, all that matters is the end result.

You’ve trained the public to despise smokers. You even trained us to despise ourselves. And now you want to do the same again for vaping? Why?

Why would you want to prevent smokers from moving off a deadly, lifelong addiction to vastly safer vaping? Why would you put up barriers? Is this what you would want for your friends, your family?

You tax, punish and segregate us from the rest of society. You pass laws against us, not for us. Your only “Tobacco Control” message? Quit, or die.

And so smokers die, 480,000 of us every year.

Your policy and regulatory response to vaping is deadly, bald-faced prohibition; your loudest voices are chilling in their utter disdain for our lives; and your prevailing narrative on nicotine vaping is nothing short of a fairytale.

Thanks to regulators at the federal and state level, vape shops and the independent vapor industry are being systematically eliminated and our products banned. We are being driven back to smoking by the very people we entrusted to help us to quit. And we are dying.

FDA regulatory authority over electronic cigarettes ultimately stems from the Tobacco Control Act. Electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, yet you apply a greater regulatory burden on vapor products used for cessation than that applied to deadly tobacco products themselves. The message to the public? Quitting smoking with vaping is more dangerous than smoking.

That is a deadly lie.

The result is people like me who use vaping to quit smoking face a hostile public. Our friends and family have been misinformed and whipped into a moral panic. Other businesses and industries are being pressured by regulation and a misinformed public to sever ties with independent vapor and vape shops, to carpet-bomb our supply chain, and to convince the public we are addicting and killing their children. National campaigns now depict us as monsters, selling depression sticks to children.

You lie, you mock mental illness and depression. You deter people from quitting smoking and force those of us who’ve quit back to smoking. And you’ve increased cigarette sales for the first time in two decades. That did not need to happen, COVID, or no COVID.

Few, if any, of the people in Tobacco Control have ever set foot in a vape shop. They appear to have no idea what we do. Yet, you are eliminating us and our products and are sending our clients back to smoking and dying.

Thousands of vape shops like mine are currently the human face of tobacco harm reduction in this country, providing the products, personal service and support currently keeping millions of Americans smoke-free. We’re not just an industry selling a product; we are a community working together, helping millions to quit smoking, and we do it far better than you ever have and ever will.

Electronic cigarettes are proven safe and effective cessation products employed by hundreds of millions of consumers over the last 18 years with no significant harm and have reduced both adult and youth smoking rates.

The scientific and statistical evidence, the consensus of the world’s experts and the global population experience of millions of successful ex-smokers suggest that vaping can be easily, safely and inexpensively regulated with a set of common-sense manufacturing and marketing standards, coupled with the message that vaping is for old guys like me to quit smoking, not for young people to start. Put me on your anti-vaping posters and watch youth use disappear. Standards that we’ve been begging for as an industry, for years.

If you can’t see that, I think you’re in the wrong business. If you’re focused on the mythical harms of an equally mythical youth vaping epidemic, you’re definitely in the wrong business. If you think the public benefits from taxing, banning, restricting and lying about the most effective and popular means of smoking cessation ever devised, you need to get out of our way because we are saving lives and you are now taking them.

The bottom line: Tobacco Control has become a clear and present danger to public health.

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