In a battle to destroy vaping, ‘bad actors’ have spammed more than 255,000 fake anti-vaping comments into the system overseeing the public consultation process for the US Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rulemaking on the Regulation of Flavors in Tobacco Products, according to a story by Brent Stafford for regulatorwatch.com.
The regulations in question could include restrictions on the use of flavors in e-liquids, or an outright flavor ban.
FDA sources were said to have told RegWatch that the spammed entry of more than a quarter of a million fake comments was “extraordinary” and “unprecedented”.
It was said that the assault nearly brought down federal servers and so bogged-down the internal network that it became next-to-impossible to process any submissions.
RegWatch described what happened as a massive assault on the credibility of the public consultation process.
Meanwhile, according to a Vaping 360 story relayed by the TMA, the 255,000 comments originated from four IP addresses.
The agency was said to have been able to stem the flow of comments but had not approved or published a single comment from the pending queue of hundreds of thousands of comments.
The spammed comments were unsigned and followed one of four templates, including three that used language copied from an April Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and another from a form letter to California mayors created by the California Department of Public Health.
The comments were said to ‘critique the use of flavors and packaging to increase addictiveness and appeal’.
As of July 9, there were more than 517,000 submissions waiting to be reviewed and each comment on the FDA regulatory docket must be read and approved by FDA staff before inclusion.
Vaping organizations have been encouraging comment submissions from vapers but are concerned that confusion and uncertainty over the corrupted comment docket will discourage many vapers from telling their stories.