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Trump taps cancer researcher to be FDA commissioner

Inside the vaping industry's booming black market
CBS News investigates the vaping industry's booming black market 04:03

Washington — President Trump has nominated Stephen Hahn to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — a role left by Scott Gottlieb in April. 

Hahn has been the chief medical executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston since May 2018.

If confirmed by the Senate, Hahn will have to figure out how to deal with the ongoing controversy over vaping and e-cigarettes. An increasing number of vaping-linked lung illnesses has attracted national concern and driven the president and first lady to make vaping prevention, especially among children and teens, a priority. 

Critics of vaping have questioned why the FDA has done so little to regulate the products. As Gottlieb left the FDA, the former commissioner — who served on the board of a company that sold vaping products — warned that stricter action may be needed. 

"If we see another sharp increase in the youth [vaping] rates this year," Gottlieb said in an exclusive interview with CBS News earlier this year, "we're gonna have to look at more draconian measures like potentially taking these pod-based products off the market entirely."

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 78% increase in high school students using e-cigarettes in one year. That raised the number of middle and high school students who use tobacco to almost 5 million.

The Trump administration announced an effort in September to ban flavored e-cigarette products, which are popular among teens. Whether the administration will be able to accomplish that remains to be seen. 

"We can't allow people to get sick," Mr. Trump said in September. "People are dying."

What's behind the rising death toll from vaping? 07:00

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, emphasized how crucial the FDA's role is and said he looks forward to meeting with Hahn. 

"Having the right person lead the FDA is critical to virtually every American," Alexander said in a statement. "The FDA is responsible for ensuring drugs and medical devices that patients rely on are safe and effective, protecting the nation's food supply, regulating tobacco products, and implementing 21st Century cures and new federal laws to help combat the opioid crisis. I look forward to meeting with Dr. Hahn and scheduling a hearing to consider his nomination."  

Norman "Ned" Sharpless has been serving as the agency's acting commissioner, but according to reporting by The Washington Post, he will hand the interim role over to Brett Giroir, a top Health and Human Services official. Sharpless will return to his previous job as the director of the National Cancer Institute.

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