President Donald Trump said his administration will soon issue new regulations on flavored vaping products that health experts say have hooked millions of children on tobacco.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a new proposal to restrict the products to the White House on Monday. The regulation will require all pre-packaged flavored vaping pods other than tobacco and menthol to be at least temporarily taken off the market, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“We have to protect our families,” Trump told reporters before a New Year’s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. “At the same time, it’s a big industry; we want to protect the industry.”
Vaping flavors that users can custom-mix at vape shops won’t be restricted under the new rules, the person familiar with the matter said. The person asked not to be identified because the regulation hasn’t been publicly released.
And Trump said that he hopes many or all pre-packaged flavor pods can be returned to the market “very, very shortly.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Tuesday that the new rule would ban most flavored vaping pods used in devices such as those made by Juul Labs Inc. Juul had already voluntarily stopped selling many of its flavors.
The decision caps months of wavering after Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and others announced broad restrictions on flavored products at an Oval Office event on Sept 11.
Fierce opposition arose from anti-tax and anti-regulation conservatives, and Trump retreated from his commitment. The administration has been publicly debating the issue ever since.
The White House had zeroed in on what it thought was a sweet spot: Banning all flavored pods other than tobacco and menthol, while publicly indicating that vape shops could be exempt from any rule. Trump didn’t indicate which flavors would be prohibited, but the person said it would be all flavors except tobacco and menthol.
The ban would include the popular mint flavor, and health experts have warned that children may switch from mint to menthol. The Sept. 11 announcement banned all flavors other than tobacco.
In November, Trump held an extraordinary round-table session, with reporters watching, in which proponents and opponents of vaping restrictions hotly debated what course of action ought to be taken. The participants included public health figures, vaping advocates and tobacco company executives.
Trump said he was looking for a resolution where “everybody’s happy,” but the event laid bare the bitter divide — with ban advocates warning that watering down the effort would pose a risk to the health of children, and opponents arguing that it would drive adults back to conventional smoking.
Conservative groups and vaping advocates mobilized a publicity campaign urging the president to back off the Sept. 11 announcement, and said a prohibition could damage his re-election chances.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last week that more than 2,500 cases of “hospitalized” lung injuries and 55 deaths had been linked to the use of e-cigarette products. Trump said on Tuesday night that his administration thinks it knows the source of the illnesses and deaths, and added that he hoped flavored products that were deemed safe would soon be allowed for sale again. “We’re doing a very exhaustive examination and hopefully everything will be back on the market very, very shortly,” Trump added.
In South Florida earlier on Tuesday, Trump’s motorcade passed about a dozen pro-vape advocates waving signs urging him to reject a ban on flavored products.
However, pediatricians, other health advocates and some lawmakers in his own party had urged Trump to take action to curb a rise in the use of the tobacco products by teenagers.
“We’ve got almost 6 million kids addicted to nicotine, and they’re getting addicted to nicotine because of flavors,” Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who has written legislation to ban flavored vaping products, told Trump at the November session.