Trump backtracks on banning flavored e-cigarettes fearing re-election debacle: Report

Even as deaths and injuries caused by e-cigarettes and vaping have become a major public health concern, the administration is apprehensive that a ban would see loss of jobs and that the impact could be reflected in the ballot boxes next year.


                            Trump backtracks on banning flavored e-cigarettes fearing re-election debacle: Report
(Source: Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is known for his U-turns and he makes those moves quite frequently. In recent times, his foreign policy decisions on Syria came under criticism because of their unpredictability. And now, the president has come up with yet another about-turn and it is on the issue of banning flavored e-cigarettes.

According to a report in The Washington Post, Trump backtracked on the eve of a scheduled morning news conference on November 4. Briefed on a flight to a campaign rally in Lexington in Kentucky, Trump refused to sign the move saying he no longer supported the ban.

Two months earlier, the administration had promised to ban e-cigarettes of candy, fruit and mint flavors within a month after a number of lives were lost to e-smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been cases of 42 deaths and over 2,100 cases of “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) have been reported to the CDC from 49 states (except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and two US territories (Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands).” 

Even iPhone maker Apple has decided to remove all 181 vaping-related apps from its mobile App Store as part of its corporate social responsibility in the face of the growing number of deaths and injuries. 

Fear before elections?

But why did Trump change his mind? The Post cited a presidential adviser who said on the condition of anonymity that the president balked for he feared the decision would see loss of jobs.

Officials from the White House and Trump’s campaign were more forthright to say that Trump decided to let go of the major public health issue for a ban that could hurt his re-election prospects next year. The Post, which is not exactly among the media outlets that adore Trump, even lashed out at the incumbent over his backtracking on the e-cigarette issue, saying: “It was the latest example of the chaotic way policy is made — and sometimes unmade”. 

The plan to ban vaping flavored e-cigarettes also saw an aggressive social media campaign with the hashtag #IVapeVote where vaping advocates said the ban would lead to loss of jobs and send vapers back to smoking. Even Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale privately advised him against banning the same for it could hurt his electoral prospects in the battleground states, the Post cited a person saying on condition of anonymity.

It was reported that Trump was even upset with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who in September had announced that the administration was preparing to ban flavored e-cigarettes after health officials sought restrictions to curb lung disease. Azar played a leading role in rolling out the anti-vaping plan. 

Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services was playing a key role in laying out the vaping-ban plan. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Trump was going for ban because of Melania and Ivanka?

It was also learned from the Post report that First Lady Melania Trump and the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump had been pressing Trump to take action on the vaping issue as they were increasingly concerned about youth vaping. But Trump eventually gave weightage to the political which has seen strong criticism from anti-tobacco groups like Truth Initiative. It was even said Trump had little idea about the vaping issue but was doing it more because of his family members. 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as first lady Melania Trump listens during an Oval Office announcement on September 11, 2019, at the White House in Washington, DC. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced that the U.S. government is planning to ban all non-tobacco flavored vaping products from the market. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

While Azar was yet to respond, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said the Trump administration was committed to protect children’s health, though he did not speculate on the final result.

The administration is now faced with a dilemma of politics and public health and Trump’s own tweet last week that “children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be in focus” made it evident. He also said on the occasion that people from the vaping industry, along with medical professionals and individual state representatives will be spoken to find an “acceptable solution” to the problem.

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