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White House Looks to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes; Kansas Secretary of Health & Environment Dr. Lee Norman Discusses Latest Death from Lung Disease, Dangers of Vaping; Source: Trump Administration Considers Pompeo as National Security Advisor While Remaining Secretary of State; Purdue Pharma Tentatively Settles Thousands of Opioid Lawsuits. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration is making a big move against E-cigarettes, looking to ban the flavored vaping pods that have become so popular among teenagers.

This comes as there's an urgent investigation under way to figure out what the cause is behind a spike in lung illnesses associated with vaping. More than 450 possible cases already reported across 39 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling this an outbreak.

Late last month, an 18-year-old varsity student athlete in Illinois was hospitalized with this very lung illness, he says, after using E- cigarettes for more than a year and a half. Listen.


ADAM FERGENREDER (ph), CONTRACTED LUNG DISEASE AFTER VAPING: The doctor said that my lungs were that of a 70-year-old's. So it was scary to think about that, that little device did that to my lungs.


BOLDUAN: There have also been at least six deaths associated with vaping. The latest one in Kansas, according to the state health department. The patient was a woman over 50 years old who died within a week of starting to use E-cigarettes.

Joining me right now is Dr. Lee Norman. He's the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Dr. Norman, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: I did want to ask you, what are you seeing, from your perspective, and all the information that you have coming in, that has you making the very clear recommendation that I saw you put out, which is it is time to stop vaping?

NORMAN: Yes, a number of things concern us. But number-one in my book is that these are unregulated products. And in many of them, we have no idea what is in them. And the thought of inhaling those into the lungs when it's an unknown compound or mixture, is just a crazy idea. And that's why I advocate stopping vaping, certainly until we know more and can control what's in there.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, when it comes to the woman who died in Kansas, the doctors, all the reports I have seen, is the doctors say it's clear that vaping was the cause of her rapid decline. Do you know yet what type of vaping product she was using, was it nicotine or was it THC?

NORMAN: We don't know what those are. They were sent away for analysis. What we do know is that this patient, an adult, had preexisting medical conditions but they had been stable. And the only thing that had changed prior to her illness and death was the initiation of vaping.

BOLDUAN: That is so scary. And the reason I asked for that, I was wondering if you thought that mattered, that distinction between nicotine vaping products and THC.

I ask that because the president of the American Vaping Association was on CNN this morning and he tried to make the case that the tobacco vaping products are safe. And the vaping products, the THC vaping products, are what he thinks should be the real concern here.

Let me play a little bit of what he said.


GREGORY CONLEY, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VAPING ASSOCIATION: The actual nicotine vaping products that he had tested, they have found, quote, "Nothing unusual," according to great reporting from the "Washington Post."

And there are numerous public health advocates, including Dr. Michael Siegel, of Boston University School of Health, multiple others, saying the evidence clearly links these products to elicit THC, not vaping.

And prohibiting adults from accessing these products is not going to benefit public health. It actually could increase smoking among both youth and adults after we just saw a record-setting 28 percent decrease in teen smoking from 2018 to 2019.


BOLDUAN: Dr. Norman, I want to get your reaction to his position. Do you think he's right?

NORMAN: Well, I don't know that -- what the real answer is. I typically don't look to the tobacco industry to necessarily be advocates for public health. Let's start with that as a basic assessment.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point.

NORMAN: Tobacco, we know -- it's the devil we know. And it may not be the offending agent. THC and its derivatives may not be.

I personally think that the substances put in there, the lipids, glycerin, and those other adulterants, are quite possibly the offending agents. Judging from the fact that people have smoked cigarettes for a long time, people have smoked marijuana for a long time, and this epidemic is relatively new with the oils and vaping products out there.


We just don't know what's in them.

BOLDUAN: We really do not. It is unregulated at this point.

What do you think of the administration's move to ban the flavor pods, what do you think of that?

NORMAN: Well, I think it's a good start. The -- the -- one of the things that's important is to not have people start vaping. A lot of the kids, the majority of young people who start vaping have never been smokers in the first place. So this is how they are initiating inhaling things into their lungs. That's bad.

I think young people shouldn't vape. The deaths have been primarily in adults. I think young people should talk to their parents and grandparents out of vaping.

I mean, we just have to decrease it, get rid of it, and find out what's in there, put a moratorium on sales until we know more.

BOLDUAN: And just to put a fine point on it, because I really appreciate your candor, you call it crazy to be inhaling something into your lungs that you don't know what's in this product. The fact that folks continue to say, look, vaping, when it comes to an E- cigarette, it's safer than lighting up a traditional cigarette. What do you say to them at this moment?

NORMAN: Well, I don't think it's even true. We have six dead people, and 450 people with damaged lungs, and that wouldn't happen were they not vaping.

The thought of inhaling something into the lungs is, to me, almost as if a person found a pill on the floor, picked it up and swallowed it, or shoot something into their vein that they don't know what it is.

We take tainted beef off the market. When lettuce has salmonella, we take it off the market. And it's, I think, an important first step to gain an understanding and then to regulate these products.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That does sound straight-up crazy to be injecting something into you without knowing what it is. That's a very interesting way of putting it.

Doctor, thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

NORMAN: OK. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Really appreciate your perspective.

Ahead for us, how many jobs can one person hold in one administration at one time? Could Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be going for a record?

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: President Trump may be trying to get two for the price of one. CNN has learned that administration officials are considering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to replace national security adviser, John Bolton. That could mean Pompeo would be doing both jobs at the same time. Last time that happened was Henry Kissinger in the Nixon administration.

CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is joining me right now.

Talk about hazard pay. Jeremy, what are you hearing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, we know that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the former national security adviser, John Bolton, bitterly clashed during their time serving in the administration.

Now, in the wake of Bolton's departure, it looks like Mike Pompeo could be benefitting in more ways than one. We are being told by two sources that there are discussions amongst administration officials for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to potentially take on the national security adviser role as well, in addition to his current duties as secretary of state.

Now it's not clear how seriously the president is considering this right now, and the president has said that there are other names under consideration as well right now.

We know that, at the top of that list, as of now, it appears are Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran policy, and Steve Biegun, the special envoy for North Korea.

Regardless of who the president picks for this position, it appears that this role will be diminished in some capacity.

The president has been keeping his council on foreign policy, more often than not, going into the future. And we also know the president wants somebody that lines up with his current vision of foreign policy, which has included a number of diplomacy related initiatives, including the possibility of a meeting with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

All three men, Brian Hook, Steve Biegun and Mike Pompeo, would fit the bill for lining up more with where the president currently is on national security.

But we know, in particular, that Mike Pompeo, more than perhaps any other official in the president's national security apparatus, has earned the president's trust and has managed to line up with the president's views on foreign policy -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Let's see what that means for the next chapter.

Good to see you, Jeremy. Thank you so much.


Coming up next for us, a massive multibillion-dollar deal in the nationwide opioid crisis. The maker of oxycontin reaching a tentative agreement to settle thousands of lawsuits. So why is one state attorney general calling it a slap in the face. That's next.


BOLDUAN: It's a deal worth billions of dollars. It would settle more than 2,000 lawsuits from cities, counties, hospitals, Indian tribes, and Native American tribes, and other groups across the country. But is it enough?


That is the question being asked today after Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid drug, oxycontin, reached a tentative settlement to pay out $3 billion over seven years to end the litigation that accused the company and the family that owned it of fueling the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Make no mistake, this is an urgent crisis. More than 70,000 Americans have died since 1999 from opioids. These addictive drugs have ravaged communities indiscriminately from coast to coast.

So are billions of dollars in a payout and the family behind it losing control of the company, is it enough?

Joining me right now is Paul Henley. He's one of the lead attorneys who is representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Hanly. I've got a million questions, of course.

This is a tentative deal. All of the reporting is this is a tentative deal right now. What can you tell us about how close this is to final?

PAUL HANLY, CO-LEAD COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS IN FEDERAL OPIOID LAWSUITS: Well, the executive committee of the plaintiffs' group in the federal proceedings is recommending the deal based on the general terms that have been put out there.

As you correctly mentioned, Kate, the $3 billion guaranteed. The Sacklers essentially losing total control and ownership of all the pharmaceutical companies both worldwide and in the United States.

So we have to pay for the deal, as we say, and we have to make sure all the bells and whistles are on it.

But at this point, our constituency, which is more than 2,000 communities, is recommending that we take a harder look and that we not break off of the talks.

BOLDUAN: Do you, do your constituencies, the plaintiffs, do you consider this a win? Are you happy with the settlement?

HANLY: Well, it's often said is that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This is not a perfect settlement, Kate, but it is a good settlement in our judgment.

Because the alternative is that the Purdue Pharma goes bankruptcy court and those proceedings, as you know, can last a decade or more.

The lawyers who worked with me in this litigation have vast experience in bankruptcy proceedings, and we don't believe it's in the interest of these communities, which, as you indicated, are hemorrhaging funds and in need of funds, to wait 10 or 15 years for what would likely be a smaller payout than could be achieved now.

BOLDUAN: Not everybody is happy with this outcome. You're not necessarily thinking this is a perfect deal as it is.

But here is the attorney general Pennsylvania, his reaction to this tentative settlement. He says, "This apparent settlement is a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family's destruction and greed. It allows the Sackler family to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing."

What do you say to that?

HANLY: Again, it's not the perfect settlement but I believe that it's in the interest of the residents, the citizens of Pennsylvania to have a deal in this framework be approved.

We recognize that the general attorney of Pennsylvania, like the many other men and women who serve in that role around the country, have been upset with the Sacklers and with Purdue.

But again, we have to look to the communities that are in need of funds to abate this epidemic.

I'm hopeful that the attorney general of Pennsylvania and the others who, as you know, have objected, will listen to sound arguments. And, hopefully, if we can sweeten the deal, they will come around.

BOLDUAN: One of the things I saw about this deal is some of the reporting is that part of the payout that will go to these communities comes from the future sale of oxycontin. If oxycontin is the root of the problem, how is that helping the problem?

HANLY: Well, it's not necessarily the case that the future payout would come from sales of oxycontin. The company could be sold, liquidated, the assets sold off, and those revenues could flow to the communities without the communities accepting funds from the sale of oxycontin.

So that's still very much up in the air, and we'll just have to see how that plays out.

BOLDUAN: Do you agree that seems completely backwards?

HANLY: It does seem somewhat inappropriate for a community that's been suing the company over the marketing of oxycontin to then be accepting revenues from those sales. But we will look to the bankruptcy court and to the advisers concerning how this can be structured.

BOLDUAN: What do you think of these additional lawsuits? Pennsylvania's attorney general, he just announced today they are going to be moving forward with suing specific members of the Sackler family. What do you think of that approach?


HANLY: Well, that's been done -- this is not novel. This has been done over the last year or so. In fact, a number of the communities that I represent, including the city of New York, have sued the Sacklers personally. It's part of a litigation strategy.

But, again, we are looking, at this point in time, for a slightly different approach, namely some sort of a deal that would get money to these communities more quickly than going through the long years, decades possibly, of bankruptcy.

BOLDUAN: We'll be watching as this proceeds very closely. We're very interested in it.

Thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it, Mr. Hanly.

HANLY: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

We'll be right back.