The Phoenix Flyer

Critics say Trump’s partial ban on vape flavors fails to protect kids

By: - January 3, 2020 2:53 pm

Certain fruity and sweet e-cigarette products are temporarily banned but many popular options remain legal. Critics say the Trump Administration broke its promise to protect teens by banning all flavored vape products. Getty Images

Candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarette products popular with teen smokers will be temporarily banned by the Trump Administration, which backed down from its pledge four months ago to “clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes.”

Menthol products are exempt, though studies say they’re popular with teens.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey estimates that 64 percent of high-school-age vapers use menthol or mint flavors. The new policy bans mint but not menthol.

The FDA announced the partial ban Thursday, saying it will “prioritize enforcement” against sweet-flavored, pre-filled cartridges, or pods. Flavor mixtures concocted for use in refillable pods are exempt.

“Our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential offramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an onramp to nicotine addiction for our youth,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement Thursday.

Less than four months ago, Azar announced the Trump Administration would take a much stronger stance, banning all flavored e-cigarettes, the vast majority of which contain addictive nicotine.

Fruit, menthol, mint and candy flavors are the most popular among teenage vapers. Virtually all contain nicotine. Source: National Youth Tobacco Survey

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar announced on Sept. 11. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

In Florida, one in four high-school students use e-cigarettes, according to Florida’s Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) lobbies states to impose stricter bans. On Nov. 27, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes.

“The FDA guidance puts tobacco interests ahead of our kids and won’t meaningfully address the epidemic of youth tobacco product use,” said Heather Youmans, ACS CAN senior government relations director. ACS CAN will continue to work in Florida to advance and implement effective tobacco control policies that protect our youth,” she said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.

The national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids condemned the new policy in a statement on its website, saying it prioritizes the tobacco industry over public health.

“The e-cigarette policy announced [Thursday] by the Trump administration breaks the administration’s promise to kids and families to eliminate the flavored e-cigarettes that are driving an epidemic of youth nicotine addiction,” said Matthew Myers, president of the organization.

“By leaving menthol flavored e-cigarettes widely available and completely exempting liquid flavored products, this policy will not stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic. It is a capitulation to both Juul and vape shops and gives a green light to the e-cigarette industry to continue to target and addict kids with flavored products.”

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]