Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Califf grilled over Chinese vapes

headshot
Apr 11, 2024

Califf testifies at House Oversight. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf parried questions from the House Oversight Committee on Thursday on drug shortages, food safety, vaccines and other topics, with Chair James Comer saving some of the sharpest questions about tobacco regulation.

Why it matters: The hearing came amid a bevy of committee investigations inspired by the pandemic response, the infant formula crisis and persistent shortages of some critical medicines.

But Comer was particularly interested in tobacco — a big topic in his home state of Kentucky.

  • He grilled Califf on FDA's record of approving modified-risk tobacco products and why store shelves still are filled with vapes from China.
  • "Is it the objective to target the U.S. tobacco industry even if it means allowing a flood of Chinese products containing God knows what into this country?" Comer asked.
  • Califf responded that FDA is working on picking up its enforcement on manufacturers of vaping products.
  • "It's a battle every day we're engaged in it, and yes, we do want to regulate it; the closer we can get to zero combustible tobacco, the better. The role of vaping is still something we're working on," he said.

Republican members also asked about FDA decisions on issuing EUAs for COVID vaccines as well as clinical trials for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

  • Panel Democrats highlighted the possible effects of a Supreme Court decision restricting mifepristone on the FDA's powers.
Go deeper