Trump Administration Issues Partial And Temporary E-Cigarette Ban

Jan 2, 2020
Originally published on January 2, 2020 4:29 pm
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The Trump administration announced a partial and temporary ban on the sale of certain types of e-cigarettes today. Companies will no longer be allowed to sell vaping cartridges that contain flavored nicotine, with the exception of tobacco and menthol flavors. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports that many public health groups say the policy falls short of what's needed to stem the e-cigarette epidemic among teens.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: At a time when 1 in 4 high school seniors say they've used e-cigarettes, many public health groups have been calling on the Trump administration to clear the market of these products. At the same time, vaping advocates have argued that e-cigarettes should remain available to adults who use them to try to quit smoking cigarettes. The new policy announced today aims to strike a balance, says Alex Azar. He's secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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ALEX AZAR: We are temporarily taking certain illegal products off the market if they are the types of products and flavors most widely used by kids.

AUBREY: This includes a temporary ban on many flavored cartridges that have become so popular with teens. But the new policy makes an exemption for flavored vaping liquids used in what's known as open tank vape systems sold in vape shops. These are seen as less appealing to young people, the administration says, and they will remain largely available to adults.

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AZAR: We aim to see whether e-cigarettes could serve as an effective off-ramp for adult smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes. We believe that remains a possibility.

AUBREY: The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, says this new policy is based on the latest data, including a survey of teenagers, that paints a more granular picture of what kids are vaping.

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STEPHEN HAHN: These new data on youth use of Juul flavors further underscore that youth are particularly attracted to e-cigarettes in flavors such as fruit, candy and mint much more so than tobacco or menthol-flavored e-cigarettes.

AUBREY: He says as the FDA begins its new enforcement policy, the goal is to aggressively take steps to protect youth who are at risk of addiction to nicotine from vaping.

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HAHN: We believe this policy balances the urgency with which we must address the public health threat of youth use of e-cigarette products with the potential role that e-cigarettes may play in helping adult smokers transition completely away from combustible tobacco to a potentially less risky form of nicotine delivery.

AUBREY: Gregory Conley is president of the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping advocacy group. He says the new policy could be helpful in maintaining access for adults who want to quit smoking.

GREGORY CONLEY: Vaping helped me quit smoking approximately nine years ago, and it has helped many smokers around the country get off of the No. 1 killer in the country, which is combustible cigarettes.

AUBREY: But public health groups say this new action by the Trump administration falls far short of what's necessary to protect kids from the harms of nicotine. Paul Billings is with the American Lung Association.

PAUL BILLINGS: This is not really a policy that is curbing youth tobacco use but is leaving open huge loopholes, enough to drive a school bus through.

AUBREY: Billings says the FDA needs to be much more aggressive in its enforcement and its approach to protect kids. And he says menthol and tobacco flavors should not be exempted from the new policy.

BILLINGS: FDA has failed to enforce the law for a decade. If these products are on the market and they're hooking kids, FDA needs to close the door, not leave open these loopholes for a wide variety of products that our kids are using.

AUBREY: The FDA's new enforcement actions go into effect in about 30 days, but flavored vaping cartridges could be allowed back on the market. Companies must submit an application to the FDA showing, among other things, that they're not targeting youth.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.