After heightened concerns about vaping this summer due to mysterious lung damage among e-cigarette users, President Donald Trump and his administration appeared on track to unveil policies to limit the availability of flavored products, which appeal to young users.
“We’re going to be coming out with an important position on vaping. We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” Trump said earlier this month.
“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working, and there’s some pretty good aspects,” Trump said on Nov. 9, according to the Hill. “We’re coming out, we’re very close to a final report, and we’ll be giving it next week.”
There has so far been no report or action, however.
Even as the president said he would soon release a plan to limit the availability of flavored e-cigarettes, he had already decided against such a policy, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The president was presented with a memo about an e-cigarette ban during a flight to Kentucky for a campaign rally Nov 4. He declined to sign it, the paper reported.
Trump said he was concerned that such a ban could lead to job losses in the vaping industry. He also didn’t want vape sellers and users to turn against him before the 2020 election, anonymous sources told The Post.
“He didn’t know much about the issue and was just doing it for Melania and Ivanka,” a senior administration official told The Post. The president’s wife, Melania, and his daughter Ivanka had raised concerns about the dangers of youth vaping and urged the president to take action. He pledged to do so in September.
We realize the politics are part of life in Washington, and that quotes from unnamed sources do not always reflect official policy deliberations, but Trump should set aside his personal political ambitions in this case and direct his administration to take serious steps to keep vaping products out of the hands of teenagers.
While e-cigarettes have been touted as a way to help adults reduce or stop smoking, they can have the opposite effect on young people, leading them to smoke cigarettes.
After years of decline, the percentage of American teenagers who report smoking cigarettes rose last year. The percentage of teens who routinely use e-cigarettes continues to rise as well.
Although the numbers are small, a rise in teen smoking rates is cause for concern. Nearly 90 percent of current adult smokers began before they were 18. So, reducing teen smoking rates can have long-term positive consequences. Tobacco-related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, costing the U.S. about $300 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity due to illness and premature deaths.
Sen. Susan Collins raised concerns about the link between youth vaping and smoking — and called for action from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control — during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing last week. She has cosponsored legislation to ban the sale of flavored vaping products and a bill to require age verification for the online sale and delivery of e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products by teens, and their use is increasing. In 2018, 27 percent of high school students reporting using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. That’s a significant increase from nearly 20 percent the previous year.
Several retailers have already stopped selling flavored e-cigarettes and some have stopped selling any type of tobacco products.
Still, given the dangers of e-cigarettes and smoking, a national policy is needed. Maine has banned e-cigarette use, by both students and adults, on school grounds. In 2017, the state raised its tobacco purchase age to 21. To date, 21 states have raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. Other states should follow suit and federal legislation to raise the age — though not a bill backed by Sen. Mitch McConnell — could help.
With ample evidence that teen vaping and smoking are on the rise, continued inaction from the Trump administration will unnecessarily cost taxpayers money and put lives at risk.