Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes

The Trump administration is seeking to ban all nontobacco 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 TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE told reporters in the Oval Office that vaping is a problem “especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.”

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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 FDA has struggled to keep up with regulation.

Federal statistics have shown a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year.

“We can’t have our youth be so affected,” Trump said. “People are dying with vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely.”

The Food and Drug Administration 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. Manufacturers of tobacco-flavors would have to file for approval by May 2020, 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,” Azar said.

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.

The agency gained the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, but it wasn’t extended to vaping products until 2016. When the Trump administration took over in 2017, the FDA decided to delay enforcing the laws until 2022, much to the frustration of public health groups. In response to a federal lawsuit, the agency moved that timeline up again, to next spring.  

Earlier Wednesday, Azar met with Trump and acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Ned Sharpless at the White House to finalize details of the announcement. 

The move to ban flavors also comes as at least 450 cases of a mysterious respiratory condition have been reported across 33 states. The severity of the cases vary, but six people have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said anyone who uses a vaping product should consider stopping while public health officials investigate. 

However, in a majority of the cases to date, patients reported using e-cigarette products containing elements of marijuana, including THC, rather than tobacco and nicotine.

The FDA has repeatedly warned about the dangers of youth addiction to e-cigarettes, and is investigating whether companies, including Juul, deliberately marketed their products to children.

Results from the CDC’s 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey have not yet been made public, but according to HHS, preliminary data show that more than a quarter of high school students were current e-cigarette users in 2019, and the overwhelming majority of youth e-cigarette users cited the use of popular fruit and menthol or mint flavors.