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By Fred Kelly Grant

Note: This is the third and final post in a series explaining the difference between federal agencies’ “Public Comment” periods for new regulations, and “Coordination,” a legal obligation of agencies but rarely obeyed. Click links to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Good public policy should always be arrived at through the use of the scientific method. A good scientist does not bias ​himself with a predetermined outcome of an experiment and then build data around ​that bias to rationalize the outcome ​he wants.

A good scientist puts bias aside and lets ​observations and data drive the conclusions.

This is not even happening with science in America. Science has been replaced by advocacy science, which is not science at all. Where scientists used to cherish their credibility through bending over backward to ​avoid the influence of bias, the majority of scientists today either work for the federal government​ or under a government-funded grant, and are thus biased to reflect the will of whatever administration is in power.

​Failing to reflect that will in their findings means grants are not renewed, and the institutions they represent are hurt financially. There is heavy monetary reason for them to find the way to rationalize the desired decision.

Why is advocacy science bad?

Think of a King decreeing the world is flat and his scientific council bringing to the table data that justifies the King’s conclusions. No one would be any the wiser that the world is not only round but it is spherical. We only advance as a society when we allow the truth to set us free from man-made constructs like the impediments imposed by special interests.

In the vaping world, it is hard for the public to buy, when the scientific data and observations are reviewed, that vaping is detrimental to public health. Common sense would dictate that in the name of public health that policy be that the world’s best smoking cessation tool and should be nurtured and embraced by public health officials.

Clearly the FDA has a bias toward vaping that does not work in the best interests of the public.

This is why pursuing coordination is vital to the health and longevity of the vaping industry.

It is clearly evident that FDA leaders have prioritized special interest agendas ahead of public health. If the FDA were a legal prosecutor and public health were put on trial, ethically, the FDA would have to disclose its conflict of interest with big Pharma and recuse itself from the trial, while asking for an unbiased special prosecutor to be appointed. Unfortunately, very few federal agencies have the temerity to act ethically and responsibly

We must always remember that the “Law” is a minimum standard ​of what we are required to do. Ethics

imposes a higher standard and is based upon what we ought to do. Federal agencies only operate within the confines of the law and have no equivocations about acting unethically. Just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical. ​So often the question posed by government officials to their counsel is “CAN we do this?” without any concern about “SHOULD we do this?”  

I have been there, spending many years as counsel to federal agencies, two Governors, county governing boards, zoning boards, as well as city and town councils. So many agency leaders have ​either forgotten to ask the “SHOULD” question or know that it would interfere with the path of action they have already set upon.

Coordination is a tool that holds federal agencies accountable and helps agency leaders remember that their role is first and foremost to serve us.  

Coordination helps the public have a say through local officials to whom all of us have ready access. You see your council person in the supermarket line, or at lunch in the diner, or at the service station, or in church, or at the school carnival. He or she is responsive to you because your vote is far more important percentage wise than it is to the Congressman or Senator.  When those local officials voice your position, they push agency leaders to act in a more ethical manner or suffer the consequences of their actions.

Coordination helps society to gain value from diverse opinions and build consensus rather than allow federal agencies to act within a vacuum.

Coordination helps federal agency leaders honor the public’s expectations rather than special interest expectations.

Coordination helps promote equality and recourse for all people to be treated equitably.

Coordination supports the public’s right to know and promotes a robust public involvement in policy decision making.

This is why all Americans should not only support the use of coordination,  BUT INSIST ON IT.

If you advocate building increased confidence in the decision making of federal agencies consistent with ethical behavior that benefits the public, if you specifically advocate freedom of choice for those that would rather vape and protect their health and lives, then I hope you will join us in our efforts to promote coordination.