Vaping advocates feel confident Trump will turn from flavor ban

Vaping advocates feel confident Trump will turn from flavor ban
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Vaping advocates feel optimistic that the Trump administration will back off its plan to ban the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE and some of his top advisers have questioned in recent days whether the flavor ban it promised two months ago could have an adverse effect on the economy. They’ve also worried it could make it harder for adults who use the products to try to quit smoking.


Those are the same objections vaping advocates have raised in the past several weeks as they seek to derail the ban, an attempt by Trump’s health appointees to curb rising youth vaping rates. 

“At the moment we are cautiously optimistic that President Trump has heard our voice and there’s room for reasonable compromise that protects both adults and youth,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, an advocacy organization that opposes a flavor ban and is funded in part by companies that make liquids used in e-cigarettes. 

Trump tweeted Monday morning that he plans to meet with representatives of the vaping industry, medical professionals and state representatives to “come up with an acceptable solution to the vaping and e-cigarette dilemma.” 

“Children’s health and safety, together with jobs, will be a focus,” he said. It’s not clear who was invited to the meeting, and the White House didn’t provide further information. 

Trump’s promise to find a compromise comes two months after he, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and then-acting Food and Drug (FDA) Commissioner Ned Sharpless told reporters the administration would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products.

Since then, a pressure campaign has been launched by conservative groups and vaping advocates to appeal directly to two of Trump’s biggest concerns: jobs and the election. 

Conservative groups have shared numbers with the Trump campaign and White House showing a flavor ban would result in thousands of jobs losses. It also shared polling commissioned by a vaping industry group that showed people who use e-cigarettes are less likely to vote for someone who supports strict restrictions on the products.  

“We are in a significantly different position than we were two months ago. The jobs numbers are part of that, and politics is part of that,” said Paul Blair of Americans for Tax Reform. 

“There is a real political consequence to getting regulation wrong among the consumers that rely on flavored products for alternatives to cigarettes. And I think that message has resonated, which is why we haven’t seen final guidance out of the FDA yet.” 

Activists held a rally in front of the White House this weekend calling for the administration to preserve flavors, and pro-vaping ads have been aired about the issue on Fox News — Trump’s favorite channel. 

Comments made by senior White House officials in the past week have given Blair and others hope the White House will go back to a proposal issued in the spring by former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb that would limit the sales of e-cigarette products to adult-only stores but would not ban flavors.

Mixed messages are signaling a disconnect between federal agencies and the White House. 

Joe Grogan, the head of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, opined to reporters Friday that Congress should never have been given the FDA authority over tobacco issues. 

While he noted that was a personal position he hasn’t shared with the president, he said the administration was weighing preserving the products for adults.

“We really want to make sure we’re data driven on this and striking the right balance adult choice and protecting the kids,” he said. 

And while Azar said in September the ban would include menthol, Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge and Kellyanne Conway honor Ginsburg Trump carries on with rally, unaware of Ginsburg's death George Conway hits Trump on 9/11 anniversary: 'The greatest threat to the safety and security of Americans' MORE, senior counselor to the president, suggested to reporters last week that flavor could be left on the market, citing a study showing kids prefer mint and fruit vapes.

And while Azar said in September the ban would include menthol, White House officials have indicated that the menthol flavor could be exempted.

Trump said Friday the White House would be “coming out with a big paper next week” and is also considering raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21. 

“We’re talking about the age. We’re talking about flavors. We’re also talking about keeping people working,” he said. “But we’ll be coming out with something next week very important on vaping. We have a lot of people to look at, including jobs, frankly, because you know it’s become a pretty big industry.”

Anti-tobacco advocates that support a flavors ban also worry the Trump administration is considering pulling back on its September promise. 

An estimated 27.5 percent of high school students, and 10.5 percent of middle school students, said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month, according to a study released this month that was conducted by government researchers.

“If the administration caves to these efforts, the e-cigarette industry and the political swamp will win and America’s kids will lose,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.