Have they been reading Putin’s play book on how to corrupt the democratic process?

Regulator Watch have reported that the FDA’s website - the one we wrote about last week, where we urged you all to comment regarding the consultation/regulation of e-liquids - has been the target of a disruption campaign.  A massive disruption campaign in fact, and Tobacco Free Kids (TFK) according to Regulator Watch, may or may not be involved.

Over the weekend of June 8th, 2018, the FDA’s comments form for e-liquids received over 255’000 new comments. As we wrote last week, that’s a lot of comments when the deeming regs only got in the tens of thousands. All new comments appear to be negative about vaping and e-liquid, all appear to come from one of four sources, and all have very similar language to that found in a letter TFK sent to the FDA back in April. The FDA website is barely functioning because of the disruption, with it taking anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to open just one of the comments. To get through all 255’000 new ones is going to take months. The FDA by law must read each comment – but will they if most of them are fake? The FDA managed to stop the comments on the following Monday, and state that they came from a bot – a computer program set up to essentially spam the site. The consultation as a result has ground to a halt.

The question then arises – who did it?

Regulator watch invited a media expert onto their show to give more of an insight into the affair. The only clues that it might be TFK are the initials found on a quarter of the fake comments – those initials being’ TFK’, plus the language that is very similar to the letter. The media expert stated that if TFK did do this, they themselves were scammed, as the disruption campaign was poorly done and was obviously fake as there were no names attached to the comments. Which raises more questions – are TFK that stupid/desperate? Have they been framed, or is someone jumping to conclusion?

What is interesting to know, is that this type of disruption is a fairly widespread practice and is known as an advocacy campaign. To be effective it needs to be quality over quantity. (Evidently the people that did this one didn’t get that memo.) This attack on the FDA certainly puts all types of consultations into perspective if you can buy comments from a media company to achieve your aim.

The Center for Tobacco Products are said to be investigating the fake comments, with the FDA saying they have never seen anything like this. It’s going to take them weeks to figure out what exactly went on, and maybe why.

Will they find out who did it?

Possibly, but that may turn out to be searching for a needle in a haystack. It may well be a case of trying to follow the money.

Which would then raise the question – would TFK, if it was them, be so stupid to pay for this, and have it on their books?

This could be the start of a tricky time for TFK, but more importantly for us vapers - will this then de-rail the FDA consultation? It might be a case of going back to the start, back to the drawing board. Or the FDA may carry on regardless and discard all comments. Sometimes these public consultations are mere window dressing and a façade to look as if they are being inclusive.

But here’s another thought…

Perhaps, whoever did organize this disruption campaign, has made sure that it was done so badly, that the FDA have no choice but to throw everything out and start again, because to do otherwise would look bad for them? Especially now that the debacle is out in the open and in the press. Perhaps, just perhaps, whoever did this have been useful idiots and they might give us all a little more breathing space – time to get more genuine comments submitted when the FDA mend the site and start the entire process all over again. But if it was an anti-tobacco organization… well, that would be another ‘trusted’ organization showing us they were anything but.

At time of writing there has been no public comment from TFK that we have seen, nothing on their website or twitter feed mentioning this disruption campaign. We are simply reporting information from a website that is pro vaping, and to our knowledge doesn’t spread fake news.