White House Bans Flavored E-Cigs Amidst Vaping Deaths

(via rolandmey/Pixabay)

Donald Trump and the Federal Drug Administration have teamed up to fight youth e-cigarette use.

The president this week announced plans to ban non-tobacco-flavored electronic cigarette products in what is perhaps his first sensible measure in three years.

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

Enticed by popular fruit and menthol or mint flavors, growing numbers of kids are turning to vaping as an alternative to traditional tobacco rolls; according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than a quarter of high school students are e-cigarette users.

“We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” Azar said, echoing a Monday tweet by First Lady Melania Trump.

Recent reports of vaping-related respiratory illnesses have amplified concerns and spurred the White House to action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have registered six deaths—including a 50-year-old Kansan who passed away this week—and more than 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states, USA Today reported.

“Once finalized, this compliance policy will serve as a powerful tool that the FDA can use to combat the troubling trend of youth e-cigarette use,” acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said. “We must act swiftly against flavored e-cigarette products that are especially attractive to children.”

In June, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban all sales of battery-powered e-cigarettes, making it illegal to sell nicotine vaporizer products in stores, or for online retailers to ship goods to Bay Area addresses.

The state of Michigan followed suit, recently halting the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products in retail stores and online. The restrictions extend to misleading marketing, including the use of terms like “clean,” “safe,” and “healthy,” which may perpetuate ideas that vaping products are harmless.

Cigarette consumption peaked in 1965, when about 50 percent of men and 33 percent of women were sucking down 100+ butts a year. Usage began to wane in the new millennium, dropping to less than 25 percent of adults who now smoke tobacco.

Children, however, are a different story: In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that upwards of 4 million middle and high school students currently use tobacco products.

“The tremendous progress we’ve made in reducing youth tobacco use in the US is jeopardized by this onslaught of e-cigarette use,” Sharpless said. “Nobody wants to see children becoming addicted to nicotine, and we will continue to use the full scope of our regulatory authority thoughtfully and thoroughly to tackle this mounting public health crisis.”

Trump’s move comes just days after the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL Labs for telling students its vaping products are “totally safe” and “99 percent safer than cigarettes.”

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