(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, with the first lady at his side, announced on Wednesday that his administration is moving to ban flavored e-cigarette products after a sixth person recently died from a vaping-related lung illness.
“We are looking at vaping strongly, it’s very dangerous, children have died and people have died,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We’re going to have some very strong rules and regulations.”
The president said kids are coming home from school and saying, “Mom, I want to vape.”
Trump was meeting Wednesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administrator Ned Sharpless who joined him and the first lady in the Oval Office, to discuss the proposed regulation, which they said might not be finalized for several weeks.
The FDA said the move would mean “clearing the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products.”
Earlier this week, Melania Trump tweeted about vaping, saying she is “deeply concerned about the growing epidemic.”
“That’s how the first lady got involved,” Trump said. “She’s got a son … together, that’s beautiful young man and she feels very strongly about it.”
The FDA is in charge of regulating e-cigarettes, which have recently gained in popularity. The CDC has advised against people using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping pens. Azar said that the FDA plans to finalize a guidance document to start enforcing flavors other than tobacco to be removed from the market, as children are particularly attracted to those flavors.
“Vaping is becoming a big business as I understand it, like a giant business in a short period of time. We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t have our youth be so effected,” Trump said.
“A lot of people think vaping is wonderful and it is great. It is not wonderful. That’s one thing I think we can say, definitely.”
It’s unclear how much teeth this announcement would actually have. The FDA has issued warnings already about using flavors to target young people and companies have said they made changes to address the FDA’s concerns.
The proposed FDA move drew sharp criticism from the head of the American Vaping Association, a a non-profit that advocates for sensible regulation of vaping products but is not a trade organization or industry spokesperson.
“We are deeply disappointed in the President’s decision to take direction from anti-vaping activists like Mike Bloomberg by attempting to ban the sale of nearly every vaping product on the market. A ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking,” said Gregory Conley, the AVA president.
“In the history of the United States, prohibition has never worked. It didn’t work with alcohol. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It won’t work with e-cigarettes. The President should meet with just one of the millions of American voters who have used flavors to quit smoking before moving forward on this draconian approach to regulation and public policy,” he said.
“Destroying thousands of small businesses and sending ex-smokers back to smoking will do nothing to stop drug dealers from selling contaminated THC cartridges. A flavor ban will only lead to the creation of yet another multi-billion-dollar black market that will operate with zero safety controls,” he said.
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