Obama-era officials shut down plan to ban vaping flavors: report

Obama-era officials shut down plan to ban vaping flavors: report
© Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to ban child-friendly vaping flavors back in 2015, but heavy lobbying from the vaping industry led top officials in the Obama White House to nix the ban, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

The canceling of the proposed ban, officials told the Times, was due to a cost-benefit analysis that indicated the economic hit to the industry was greater than the supposed negative health effects.

ADVERTISEMENT

Without the ban, the vaping and tobacco industry boomed, as did the number of young people using vaping products, growing from 3.6 million in 2017 to 4.9 million in 2018. 

The report comes as health officials nationwide are grappling with a mysterious illness related to e-cigarettes that has sickened hundreds of people and killed at least 14.

The FDA allegedly had reports years ago that showed e-flavor liquids that appealed to children were dangerous. Flavors such as bubble-gum and cotton candy were shown to contain aldehydes, a group of chemicals that restrict the airway.

Cinnamon flavors were reportedly known to have cinnamaldehyde, which was described by scientists as "highly toxic to human cells."

With widespread approval from the health and science community, an FDA ban headed to the White House for approval in October 2015. The following month, the proposed ban made its way to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is tasked with evaluating the economic impact on major bans or restrictions.

That's when the lobbyists became involved, the Times reported.

That November, the OMB reportedly met with more than 100 tobacco industry lobbyists and advocates. In early 2016, still more meetings were held between the administration and industry groups.

When the FDA's final rule on e-cigarette oversight was released in May 2016, the flavor ban was no longer included.

Also allegedly missing were 15 pages of FDA evidence showing flavored tobacco would drive a spike in youth usage.

"You look at these enormous chunks crossed out, and think, 'How could this possibly have seemed good for public health?'" Eric Lindblom, a former official in the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told the Times.

"It’s as if they looked at each other and said, 'If we’re not going to do anything about this problem, let’s delete anything that suggests we should.' It’s a horror story," Lindblom added.

An FDA spokeswoman told the Times that the agency doesn’t comment on changes makes during the rulemaking process, but added the FDA plans to work “to clear the market of unauthorized, kid-appealing flavored e-cigarette products.”

Within the year after the FDA announced its final rule, Juul reportedly saw its brick-and-mortar sales rise an astonishing 640 percent. Altria, one of the tobacco companies that aggressively lobbied the White House, eventually bought 35 percent of Juul.

Presently, there are reportedly more than 10,000 vaping flavors.