Trump administration officials, alarmed by new data showing a huge jump in vaping by young people, said they are moving to ban most flavored e-cigarettes, a major development that could result in sweeping changes in the sprawling market.
In an Oval Office meeting Wednesday that included first lady Melania Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless, President Donald Trump said: “We can’t allow people to get sick. And we can’t have our youth be so affected.” He added that the first lady, who on Tuesday tweeted a warning about vaping, feels “very, very strongly” about the issue because of their 13-year-old son, Barron.
The administration’s move comes as health officials across the country investigate more than 450 cases, including six deaths, of lung disease linked to vaping. Many patients have reported using cannabis-related products, but authorities have not ruled out any specific type of vaping. With the picture still murky, critics have seized the moment to press for tougher regulation of conventional e-cigarettes, which come in sweet and fruity flavors that have been favored by many young people.
Azar said Wednesday the administration intends to “clear the market” of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse a worsening youth vaping epidemic. He said preliminary data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows a continued, troubling rise in youth e-cigarette use. The data indicated more than a quarter of high school students have used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days — up from a little over a fifth in 2018. The overwhelming majority of students said they used fruity, menthol or mint flavors.
Azar said the FDA is finalizing a plan on flavored e-cigarettes in the next several weeks that probably would go into effect a month later. The policy, he said, would require most e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, to be removed from the market. The flavored products would not be allowed back on the market until — and if — they receive specific approval from the FDA.
The policy wouldn’t affect tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, whose manufacturers would have until next May to file for approval.
In a statement late Wednesday, a spokesman for Juul, an electronic cigarette company, said, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”