Trump hints at softening of vaping flavor ban
President Trump on Friday signaled he is walking back a long-delayed proposal to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, amid concerns over job losses and the dangers of counterfeit products.
Vaping and tobacco industry representatives and conservative groups clashed with patient advocates during a heated White House meeting, as Trump said he is worried about the effects of a complete flavor ban.
“If you don’t give it to them, it is going to come here illegally,” Trump said, adding “they could be selling something on a street corner that could be horrible.”
Trump expressed support for the industry-backed proposal of raising the age limit for tobacco purchases to 21.
“Twenty one, we are going to be doing,” Trump said.
The “listening session” was called to help the White House enact a plan to combat a massive surge in teen vaping. New federal data shows that more than 5 million teens are now vaping, and many prefer flavored e-cigarettes.
Two months ago, Trump and the administration’s top health officials sat in the Oval Office and announced their intent to clear the market of every flavor of e-cigarettes except for tobacco.
At the time, Trump cited a massive spike in teen vaping and the spread of a mysterious vaping-linked illness that has now sickened more than 2,000 people across the country and resulted in nearly 50 deaths.
But the administration has been sending mixed messages ever since, and multiple reports earlier this week said Trump spiked the ban after hearing about job losses from pro-vaping groups and his campaign advisers. Outside groups have also argued that flavors are necessary to help adults stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
The meeting was the latest evidence that Trump could reverse course on his views from September, or at least soften his position to exempt menthol flavoring and independent vape shops.
In announcing the meeting, White House spokesman Judd Deere said the policymaking process was not dead, and Trump wanted to hear all sides.
“This meeting will allow the President and other administration officials an opportunity to hear from a large group, representing all sides as we continue to develop responsible guidelines that protect the public health and the American people,” Deere said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who was seated next to Trump, repeatedly clashed with the pro-vaping representatives.
At one point, Romney tried to point out that contrary to what vaping advocates argue, “most adults do not use flavors.”
Industry representatives shouted back at him “yes they do,” offering their own statistics about adult sales.
In another exchange, Romney said the number of children who are getting addicted to nicotine because of e-cigarettes should far outweigh what any job losses.
Romney said there are more than 100 kids who get addicted per every full-time employee in a small vape shop.
“I put the kids first,” Romney said.
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