Trump Splits the Difference on Vaping
An initiative to reduce the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers led to compromise. Sales of most flavoured pods popular with youth will be forbidden, but flavoured liquid nicotine for open tank devices will be exempt
In September, President Trump, the first lady and two of his top health officials gathered in the Oval Office to announce they would take what Mr. Trump called “very, very strong” action against the fast-growing epidemic of teenage vaping: a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes.
Groups representing thousands of vape shops around the country quickly mobilised. They created a “We Vape, We Vote” social media campaign aimed at Mr. Trump, hired a pollster who had worked for the president’s election and even ran a television ad in Palm Beach, Fla., where Mr. Trump spent the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago club, featuring voters who urged him not to follow through with the ban.
On Thursday, the administration announced a policy that reflected a partial victory for the industry groups, but also seemed aimed at appeasing parents (including the crucial voting bloc of suburban mothers) and public health officials worried about nicotine addiction among teenagers.
Federal officials said they would forbid the sale of most flavoured e-cigarette cartridges, but would exempt menthol and tobacco flavours, as well as flavoured liquid nicotine sold in open tank systems at vape shops.
In a call with reporters, the officials said that starting next month they would take action against companies that were still making or selling e-cigarette cartridges — or pods — in mint, fruit or dessert flavours, as part of an effort to reduce the soaring rate of teenage vaping.
“By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth,” said Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary.
The announcement reflects the power and unity of the vaping community. Amanda Wheeler, a vape shop owner in Prescott, Ariz., who started the “We Vape, We Vote” campaign in Arizona and Colorado, said she was amazed that the efforts against a full ban had worked.
Much to the dismay of Mr Trump, The Food and Drug Administration admitted the benefits of E-cigarette usage
In a legal brief filed on Monday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the agency wrote, “it is possible that e-cigarettes provide less unhealthy alternatives to combustible tobacco products.”
For vape shop owners like Ms. Wheeler, the next challenge is the May deadline to apply for F.D.A. approval to stay on the market. She sees it as another hurdle that can kill her business. Her products include 1,700 different combinations of flavour nicotine strength and other variations, and she said she lacked the resources to apply for approval for each one.
Mitch Zeller, who heads tobacco regulation at the F.D.A., said the agency would do “everything we can, especially for small businesses, to help guide them through the process.”
“But at the end of the day,” he added, “they are subject to that May 12 deadline.”