WHITE HOUSE - “People are dying with vaping,” including children, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday as his administration announced it hopes to snuff out most flavors sold in the country for electronic cigarette devices.
The president held an Oval office meeting Wednesday about e-cigarettes after at least six people died and hundreds more nationwide were sickened in the last several months by mysterious illnesses linked to vaping.
Physicians say many of the ill patients may have vaped cannabis-related products, while others reported also using e-cigarettes.
“Vaping has become a very big business as I understand it,” said Trump. “It’s not a wonderful thing, it’s got big problems.”
E-cigarettes are touted as a safer alternative for cigarette smokers addicted to nicotine. But the illnesses — along with marketing of flavored products attracting millions of minors to the habit — have caused alarm.
The president stated that vaping is a strong concern in his own household, which includes 13-year-old Barron.
“She’s got a son,” said Trump, sitting next to his wife, Melania. “She feels very, very strongly about it. She’s seen it.”
Also in the Oval Office for the discussion were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Ned Sharpless.
“Data just shows that kids are getting access to these products despite our best efforts at enforcement,” said Azar, speaking later to reporters. “So, we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace.”
Azar noted those flavored pods include mint, menthol, bubblegum and mango.
According the health secretary, the FDA intends to finalize enforcement guidance, requiring sales of any flavored e-cigarette products —not including tobacco flavor — be halted until manufacturers secure approval under the Tobacco Control Act.
“We want the tobacco flavored e-cigarettes to remain available for adults who may be using e-cigarettes to be off of combustible tobacco,” explained Azar. “But if we find the children start surging into tobacco flavored e-cigarettes, or we find marketing practices that target children to try to drive the market share in tobacco-flavored products, we will engage in enforcement actions there also.”
Some state and city governments already have taken action. Michigan this week became the first state to ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes. Other states, including California, Massachusetts and New York, are considering similar regulations.
The city of San Francisco, in California, earlier in the year approved a ban on all e-cigarettes.
The dominant player in the multibillion-dollar industry in the United States, Juul Labs, is seeking to reverse the city’s ban through a ballot initiative in November.
“We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” said Juul in a statement e-mailed to VOA. “We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”
Juul, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was sent a warning letter by the FDA on Monday, accusing it of violating federal regulations by promoting vaping products as a healthier option than cigarettes.
Scientists say there is little evidence, however, that e-cigarettes are helping those addicted to nicotine kick the habit.