Trump administration bans all flavored e-cigarettes except menthol to check vaping among youth
The announcement has public health experts worried who believe flavors attract kids, and that even menthol is a flavor
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban on the sale of flavored pods, except menthol and tobacco products, on Thursday, January 2.
The ban follows a statement made by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, December 31, that these flavors will be taken off the shelves "for a period of time", and checked for safety.
The FDA plans to bring this ban into force within 30 days. The rule aims to "strike the right public health balance" by targeting products widely used by children while allowing vaping as a "potential off-ramp" for adults who want to quit smoking, according to the US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, reports USA Today.
If the products pass the safety tests, they will find their way back into the market, Trump said at a New Year’s Eve news conference during a party at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
"We think we are going to get back in the market very, very quickly. We have a very big industry. We are going to take care of the industry,” he said.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that e-cigarette, or vaping, products are linked to most of the lung-injury cases — responsible for sending more than 2,500 people to the hospital.
Further, users can still rely on open tank systems, which allow them to mix their own nicotine liquids, say reports. As open tank systems are unpopular among teens, the government hopes this will keep them away.
Trump had earlier committed to announce a complete ban on these flavored vaping products, including menthol. But excluding menthol from the list could mean that the Trump administration is taking a softer stand on the vaping industry, whose products have been linked to 55 deaths in 2019, according to CDC.
The vaping industries have been lobbying with the government, making a case that e-cigarettes can help people quit cigarette smoking.
They say, 35% of cigarettes sold are menthol brands and taking menthol flavors off the market would make it difficult for those looking to quit smoking. Not to mention, banning these products will put a lot of these people out of business.
This is not the first time the industries have managed to sway such decisions in their favor. The FDA first sought to ban sales of flavors during the Obama administration, but pressure from tobacco companies and retail shops, stalled the ban.
Will the new announcement curb vaping among youth?
Favored vaping is hugely popular among the younger generation. According to CDC, more than one in four high school students in the country use e-cigarettes. Fruit, menthol and mint flavors are the most sought after flavors, with more than 60% of teens who vaped saying they used them.
What is worrying is that nicotine present in these products could harm the developing brain, which continues until about the age of 25, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So, the FDA officially raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and vaping products that contain nicotine from 18 to 21, last month.
This was after Trump signed the new age limit bill into law on December 20.
"Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids" says Matthew L Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a statement.
But if menthol gets excluded, public health experts fear that teenagers would switch to menthol rather than quit vaping.
“Flavors attract kids, and menthol is a flavor. It really helps to numb the senses and makes the poison go down easier,” Erika Sward, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, told the New York Times.