John Fritze, Steve Kiggins and Jayne O’Donnell USA TODAY
Published 12:22 PM EST Jan 1, 2020
PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that his administration would “very shortly” announce a plan to address underage vaping and indicated it would involve pulling “certain flavors” off the market for a period of time.
Speaking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida before hosting a New Year Eve’s celebration, the president was relatively vague about the plan but repeatedly said that certain flavors would be pulled in an effort to protect minors from being tempted by the products.
“We’re going to protect our families, we’re going to protect our children, and we’re going to protect the industry,” Trump said. “The flavors will come off – they’re going to be checked. People have died from this. They’ve died from vaping.”
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Trump’s comments came just hours after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Food and Drug Administration was set to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, such as those sold by Juul and NJOY.
The Journal, citing “people familiar with the matter,” reported that flavor pods formulated to taste like tobacco or menthol would still be allowed for sale.
“This is a step in the right direction, but it basically just freezes the status quo,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, told USA TODAY on Tuesday night. “It forces all e-cig makers to conform to what Juul has already done voluntarily. It would still allow the sale of flavored e-liquids in convenience stores, where kids can get easier access to them.”
He added, “An alternative would have been to ban all pod-based e-cig products.”
Trump floated that idea in September after a White House meeting with his top health officials and told reporters he’d seek a ban to protect young people.
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“It’s causing a lot of problems, and we’re going to have to do something about it,” Trump said at the time.
That effort stalled, however, when vaping lobbyists pushed back and White House advisers told Trump the ban could cost him votes with adults who vape. Instead, in November, Trump said his administration would propose a minimum buying age of 21 for e-cigarette products.
On Tuesday night, Trump seemed to suggest the ban would be temporary: “Hopefully everything will be back on the market very, very shortly,” he said.
First promoted as a way for adults to quit smoking, vaping has become a major public health concern as it addicted millions of teenagers who never smoked to nicotine.
The National Institute for Drug Abuse announced last week that the number of 12th-graders saying they vape nicotine because they are “hooked” more than doubled to 8.1% from 3.6% between 2018 and 2019.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that vaping-related lung illnesses have now led to 2,561 hospitalizations and 55 deaths, although about 85% involve people who vaped THC with or without nicotine that investigators believe was tainted by Vitamin E acetate.
Contributing: The Associated Press