After several deaths and hundreds of cases of illnesses related to vaping, the Trump administration said it's working to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes.

By Kristi Pahr
September 09, 2019
Electronic cigarette
Credit: BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

In the wake of a rash of respiratory illnesses suspected to be caused by e-cigarette use, the Trump administration said it is working on a ban of most flavored e-cigarettes. The ban would prohibit the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes (not tobacco products).

E-cigarettes have grown popular among teens in recent years, and some concerned groups blame the variety of flavors that appeal to young people. "We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t have our youth be so affected," President Donald Trump said on September 11 during an Oval Office appearance. "People are dying from vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan on September 16 for a statewide ban on flavored e-cigarettes. If the ban goes into effect, New York will be the second state to outlaw the sale of the products.

“Vaping is dangerous. Period,” Cuomo said in a statement. “No one can say long-term use of vaping—where you’re inhaling steam and chemicals deep into your lungs—is healthy.”

Last week, Michigan became the first state to ban the sale of some flavored e-cigs. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in a letter to the state's senators, said the goal of the ban is to remove flavors like “Fruit Loops, Fanta, and Nilla wafers” that might be attracting kids and teens.

“Behind the candy taste, however, is a product that hooks kids and adults alike: E-cigarettes can deliver nicotine more than twice as quickly as tobacco cigarettes,” she wrote. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement supporting the governor’s ban, calling it “exactly the bold measures we must take to protect Michigan's children from the dangerous effects of vaping.”

The American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Truth initiative also praised Whitmer’s action in a joint statement: “In the absence of strong federal regulation, parents have been blindsided by the e-cigarette epidemic. The time for waiting is over. The FDA must immediately remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market nationwide, prohibit all marketing to children and prohibit online sales of e-cigarettes.”

Long marketed as a “safe” alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are thought to be the cause of dozens of recent respiratory illnesses across the nation. Last week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that they are investigating half a dozen cases of respiratory illness linked to e-cigarette usage, according to NBC News. The new Michigan ban will also prohibit marketing language that could denote safety. Words like “clean,” “safe,” and "healthy" will not be allowed in any marketing campaigns.

Not everyone agrees with the ban, however. "This shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition will close down several hundred Michigan small businesses and could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes," Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said in a statement. "These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight."

Conley also believes the ban may lead to the creation of a black market for flavored vape cartridges.

The Michigan ban, which will take effect in 30 days (business owners will have another 30 days to comply) and last for six months, can be resigned at the governor’s discretion. “As governor, I’m going to do it unilaterally until I can get the legislature to adopt a statute and write it into law,” Whitmer told MSNBC. “This is too important.” She said she hopes that state legislature will then sign it into law.

As for the national ban, acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said details will be finalized in the coming weeks.


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