Trump says ban of some flavored e-cigarette products could lead to illegal sales

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday expressed concerns that enacting his administration’s proposed ban on many flavored e-cigarette and vaping products would lead to people obtaining them illegally.

FILE PHOTO: A man uses a vaping product in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Trump also raised worries during a raucous meeting with public health and industry representatives that illegal e-cigarette and vaping products could be substandard.

Seated next to U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who wants children protected from flavored vaping products, Trump listened to the back-and-forth for nearly an hour, peppering each side with questions to try to determine the best case forward.

The Trump administration said in September it would unveil a sweeping ban on most e-cigarette and vaping flavors seen as attracting young users to addictive nicotine products, but concerns about the potential loss of jobs has prompted him to revisit the issue.

The Trump administration’s announcement that it would take action comes amid public alarm over a mysterious U.S. vaping-related respiratory illness that has sickened more than 2,000 people and killed 47.

But on Friday, Trump, who is gearing up for a re-election race in 2020 and trumpets the strength of the U.S. economy daily, was warned by an e-cigarette executive that a ban on the products could lead to a loss of at least 100,000 jobs.

Then Sally Goza, the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, proposed removing flavored e-cigarette and vaping products from store shelves to study their effects.

Another public health representative, the American Lung Association’s head Harold Wimmer, pushed for a ban on all e-cigarette and vaping flavors.

“That’s a big statement,” Trump said.

Wimmer told Trump that his stance was comparable to what Trump had announced in September.

At one point, Greg Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, accused the sector’s critics of being funded by another billionaire politician and one of the seekers of the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Michael Bloomberg.

“That’s obnoxious,” someone replied.

In September, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomberg’s charity, announced it was launching a $160 million program aimed at ending youth e-cigarette use. The organization was not immediately available for comment.

More than 27.5% of American high school students use e-cigarettes, up from 20.7% in 2018, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite evidence that youth exposure to nicotine affects brain development and makes them more susceptible to nicotine addiction in the future.

“It’s the flavors that are drawing the kids in. It’s a health emergency … We have to put the kids first,” said Utah senator Romney, adding that half of high school students in his state use vaping products.

Trump reiterated on Friday his administration was considering raising the age to buy such products to 21.

He indicated that no final decision had been made.

“We’ll let you know … We want to take care of our kids,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman


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