In the US, the Food and Drug Administration’ s e-cigarette consultation may have just been sabotaged.
Hundreds of thousands of spam messages have clogged up the FDA’s inbox and vaping advocates suspect foul play.
The ongoing consultation over flavoured e-liquid regulations has been flooded with anti-vaping spam messages in what appears to be an attempted sabotage.
A suspiciously high volume of new messages was submitted from Friday, June 8 before before being stopped on June 11.
More than a quarter of a million comments were submitted in total over the two-day period, nearly bringing down the server, according to the Division of Docketts Management (DDM) which manages the submissions network. Almost all of the comments were anti-vaping and anti-flavour. This has potentially thrown the consultation into crisis.
Regulator Watch’s Brent Stafford said:
“Sometime around close of business on Friday, June 8, an unknown actor or actors launched a computer script or ‘bot’ designed to individually enter on mass thousands of comments into the official record via a web form available to the public on Regulations.gov.
The bot reached full throttle, entering 255,000 comments, before technical staff could isolate the four offending IP addresses and cut off the flow – which they did the following Monday, June 11.”
The messages were traceable to just four IP addresses with tens of thousands of them duplicates of the exact same text, submitted under anonymous handles.
Stafford said: “It’s a disruption campaign of the highest order, one that could bring down the consultation process and take vaping with it.”
Stafford also described the sabotage as a, “massive assault on the credibility of the public consultation process.”
US-based vape businesses and their allies still fear a federal flavour ban. Numerous states and other local authorities have already intensified anti-vaping and anti-flavour legislation on a smaller scale.
In June, 68 percent of San Francisco voters backed Proposition E – which prohibited the sale of flavoured e-liquid under the banner of wider tobacco legislation.
This latest disruption is sure to stifle progress, and many companies and vapers in the US fear their contribution to the consultation will be undone. Sources from within DDM confirmed to Regulator Watch that at least 60 percent of the comments they had received were anti-vaping spam submissions.
The FBI has been notified and is carrying out an investigation.
*This article was written by Leo Forfar for Vapouround Magazine UK & Ireland Edition.