The Trump administration is moving to ban flavored e-cigarettes. In a meeting at the White House Wednesday, officials told reporters that the ban will target non-tobacco flavors — those with sweet, minty, or fruity tastes made by companies Blu, Juul, and others. The administration blamed those companies for hooking kids on the dangerous and addictive nicotine products.
The announcement follows a string of vaping-related injuries and illnesses that have sickened hundreds of Americans and killed at least six. Late last year the U.S. Surgeon General called underaged vaping an epidemic and urged regulatory action to control it.
E-Cigarette Flavors Contribute to Teen-Vaping Epidemic
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Norman Sharpless met with President Trump on Wednesday to discuss the problem.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” said Azar in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
According to a White House press release, more than 25% of high school students surveyed in 2019 regularly use e-cigarettes, and the overwhelming majority say they favor fruit, menthol, and mint flavors.
Talking to reporters, President Trump singled out the threat vaping poses to children and teenagers.
“We can't allow people to get sick and we can't have our youth be so affected," he said. “People are dying with vaping so we're looking at it very, very closely.”
Is THC Partly to Blame?
There have been 450 reported cases of a mysterious new lung illness that’s closely tied to vaping. The actual source of the illness — be it flavored or not — has not yet been identified. E-cigarette manufacturers have blamed black-market vaping pens containing THC oil (the psychoactive compound in marijuana), but public health officials aren’t so certain.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a majority of patients suffering from the mysterious illnesses were said to have vaped THC, however, many also consumed nicotine-based vape pens.
It’s also not yet clear if the disease targets a specific age group. According to the BBC, the average age of young people sickened by the respiratory illness is 19-years-old, but vaping is far more popular with young people, and the most recent death caused by the disease was a Kansas resident over the age of 50.
Mysterious Vaping-Related Illnesses Spark Fear, Concern Among Consumers
Most of these cases have occurred within the past few months, but health officials say it’s possible that the condition has occurred before and is only now being recognized. E-cigarettes have been available in most parts of the U.S. since the late 2000s. Other investigators believe the illness could be caused by a new additive or toxin that’s been introduced to certain vaping products.
Because so little is known about the illness, doctors and health officials have urged people to stop vaping until the investigation is complete. Earlier this month, Michigan became the first U.S. state to place an outright ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Just a day before the Trump administration’s announcement, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg published an op-ed in The New York Times calling for a nationwide ban, and pledged millions of dollars to fulfill that goal.
“E-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that back them are preying on America’s youth,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “The result is an epidemic that is spiraling out of control and putting kids in danger of addiction and serious health problems.”
It’s unclear what will happen to the initiative now that the Trump administration has leapfrogged it with plans to do the same.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that the Federal Trade Commission is looking into Juul's marketing tactics with kids and young adults.
It seems the golden age of vaping is at a close.