Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes

The Trump administration is seeking to ban all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes in the wake of a massive spike in teen vaping and the spread of a mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds of people across the country.

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that vaping is a problem — “especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.”

Youth vaping has skyrocketed in the past year, driven largely by teenagers becoming drawn to sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette pods easily accessible in stores.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on releasing final guidance to implement the ban, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it will take several weeks to develop.

Azar said after a 30-day effective date, all flavored e-cigarettes would be removed from the market, pending FDA approval.

Backstory: FDA has struggled with regulating vaping products. Most e-cigarette brands sold in the U.S. are legal, but none of them have been subject to FDA review, leaving a regulatory gray area as more and more products flood the market. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb previously proposed restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes that would essentially prohibit them from being sold at gas stations and convenience stores.

Context: Trump cited the six vaping deaths as part of the reason for removing flavored e-cigarettes from the market. But the vaping industry argues those deaths are likely tied to people who are vaping THC products purchased from the black market.

The FDA had already faced pressure from health groups to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market because they’re enticing to children. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “Kids are getting access to these products despite our best efforts at enforcement… they’ve been going at it so we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they’ve secured FDA approval if they can.”

What of Juul? Juul, the e-cigarette company with the biggest share of the market, last year pulled mango, fruit, creme and cucumber flavors from brick and mortar stores amid an FDA crackdown. But the company still sells several flavors online.

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