Outside the White House on Friday, President Trump said the age to purchase vaping products in the United States could rise to 21.
“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so, so we’ll be coming out with something next week very important on vaping,” Trump said.
In September, Trump said that the US Food and Drug Administration would put out “some very strong recommendations” regarding the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. At the time, Trump administration officials said the agency would remove all non-tobacco-flavored vaping products from the market.
The announcement came amid continued concerns about rising levels of youth vaping and a mysterious outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries.
Health organizations have pressured the administration to ban flavors, which are popular among young people. Vaping advocates have argued they’re a tool for adults smokers to quit combustible cigarettes, and vape shop owners have argued that limits on sales of flavors would destroy their businesses.
When asked on Friday if the administration was stepping back from restricting flavors, Trump said, “We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working.”
CNN reached out to FDA for an on-the-record comment about the President’s remarks and was not provided one.
Moves to raise tobacco age limit
The current legal age to buy e-cigarettes in the United States is 18, but there have already been moves to increase the age at which it’s legal to purchase tobacco products. Trump did not offer specifics about which products a new age limit would apply to.
Several cities and states, including California, Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts and others, limit sales of tobacco products to people age 21 and older.
In April, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people younger than 21. In May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, which would increase the minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21.
Juul Labs, the market-leading e-cigarette company, has supported federal “Tobacco 21” policies.
Teens most commonly vape fruity flavors
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 40 million adults in the United States still smoke cigarettes, and some of them might be interested in turning to e-cigarette products as a way to quit, even though e-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation tool.
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According to a 2015 National Academy of Medicine report, increasing the minimum age to 21 to purchase all tobacco products would decrease tobacco use by 12% by the time teens become adults, and smoking-related deaths would decrease by 10%. Nationwide, it would prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019.
But this report was published before sharp increases in popularity of vaping among young people.
Research published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA found that in 2019, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students currently use e-cigarettes. The researchers estimated of the 5.3 million high school and middle school students who currently use e-cigarettes, 2.4 million of them use flavored e-cigarettes.
Fruit was the most commonly reported flavor category at 66.1% for high school and 67.7% for middle school, followed by menthol or mint at 57.3% for high school and 31.1% for middle school.