Melania Trump remains committed to preventing children from using e-cigarettes, the first lady’s office says, even as President Donald Trump is reportedly putting political considerations ahead of his previously announced plan to ban the flavored e-cigarettes that appeal to children.
The first lady was an essential part of the announcement by Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in September, during a meeting in front of the media in the Oval Office, in which the President stated there would be new “very strong recommendations” to ban the use of flavored e-cigarettes.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration was expected to issue new and more complex guidelines for e-cigarette sales. The first lady had previously tweeted her interest in the topic, making a rare foray into a public policy issue.
“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children. We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” she tweeted.
On Monday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN the first lady is still as committed as ever to keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of children.
“Through her initiative, Be Best, Mrs. Trump has put her priority on the health and safety of children. She does not believe e-cigarettes or any nicotine products should be marketed or available to children,” said Grisham, who handles press for both the East and West wings of the White House.
The first lady’s statement doesn’t explicitly contradict any Trump administration stance, but it highlights potential tension between the President and first lady on the issue.
However, more than two months have now passed since Azar, the President and Melania Trump laid out the administration’s plan, including research to update federal guidance around enforcing some sort of e-cigarette ban, after which, “all flavored e-cigarettes other than tobacco flavor would have to be removed from the market,” said Azar.
A Trump campaign adviser told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump’s political aides, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, have warned him that such a ban may not be helpful with his base and that he should reconsider.
Trump was persuaded by advisers to back off the proposal during a November 4 flight to a political rally in Kentucky, according to The New York Times. Following the conversation with advisers, the newspaper reported that Trump canceled the administration’s planned announcement that was scheduled for the next day.
The planned news conference, which would have included Azar, was canceled and another meeting was proposed, according to the report.
“President Trump and this Administration are committed to responsibly protecting the health of children. At this time, we are in an ongoing rulemaking process, and I will not speculate on the final outcome,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told CNN when asked about the Times’ reporting.