The Trump administration will soon announce a ban on most flavored e-cigarette cartridges, according to two officials familiar with the plans. The ban does not include menthol or tobacco-flavored products, but applies to fruit or dessert flavors.
“We’re going to protect our families, we’re going to protect our children and we’re going to protect the industry,” President Donald Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, adding that some products could “very quickly” return to the market.
The ban is meant to allow for more research on the products, Trump said. It will apply to flavored cartridges but not tank systems that are sold in vape shops.
Cartridge-based e-cigarettes have been popular among underage users. Juul, the leading e-cigarette maker, has previously stopped selling flavors including mint, mango, creme and cucumber.
Trump administration officials announced in September the US Food and Drug Administration would try to curb a youth vaping epidemic by stripping all flavors except tobacco from the market. US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the time that flavored-product manufacturers would also have the opportunity to file for approval from the FDA, but their products would be off the market until approved.
Questions and criticism have followed since then.
Vaping advocates say a flavor sales ban would curtail some adult smokers’ efforts to quit, put small vaping companies out of business and eliminate jobs. A Trump campaign adviser previously told CNN that Trump’s political aides have warned him that such a ban may not be helpful with his base and that he should reconsider.
Health and anti-tobacco advocacy groups have urged the Trump administration to take all flavored products, including menthol, off the market.
More than 5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, according to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey published in December. For the sixth year in a row, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students.
Studies published in the medical journal JAMA in November found that nearly 60% of high school students who vape use Juul, the market leader, and mint was the most popular flavor among US 10th and 12th graders. An estimated 2.4 million high school and middle school students use flavored e-cigarettes, one of the studies found. 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.
In a statement on Tuesday, Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the reported Trump administration policy “falls woefully short of the bold action the Administration promised.”
“By leaving menthol flavored e-cigarettes widely available and totally 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,” Myers’ statement said in part.
CNN has reached out to Juul for comment. Juul has previously noted its action to prevent youth vaping, including halting sales of flavors, implementing age verification tools and supporting legislation to bring the legal age to use tobacco to 21.
Stanton Glantz, director of University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said that the reported sales ban is “better than nothing” to curb youth vaping, but likely will have less of an impact than the outright flavor ban originally promised.
“It is a step forward. Although menthol is by far and away the most important flavor and what the evidence is showing is when you get rid of the other flavors, kids just go to menthol,” Glantz said.
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Additionally, “the fact that they are exempting the tank systems is very concerning because there is even less quality control on the tank systems than the closed systems,” he said, noting that tank systems are currently a “relatively small” part of the vaping market.
In December, the sweeping spending bill President Donald Trump signed into law included a measure that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. As of last week, the FDA said on its website, “it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21.”
CNN’s Michael Nedelman and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.