Trump to Meet With Vaping Industry Representatives as Policy Nears on E-Cigarettes – The Wall Street Journal


President Trump on Friday said he supported raising the minimum purchase age for e-cigarettes nationwide to 21 from 18.


Photo:

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

By

Thomas M. Burton in Washington and

Alex Leary in New York

President

Trump

said Monday that he would meet with vaping-industry representatives as he nears a decision that could bar sales of sweet, fruit-flavored e-cigarettes aimed at young people, raising concerns among public-health advocates that the measure could be diluted.

“Will be meeting with representatives of the Vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma,” Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet Monday morning. “Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!”

He didn’t say when the meeting would happen, but the policy has been delayed under heavy lobbying. On Friday, Mr. Trump said he supported raising the minimum purchase age for e-cigarettes nationwide to 21 years old from 18.

Public-health advocates, including doctors who specialize in treating lung diseases, voiced concern about what may be in the background of the president’s tweet. In particular, the worry is about who attends any meeting with Mr. Trump.

“I’ll be interested in who he picks,” said

Albert Rizzo,

chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. The issue, said Dr. Rizzo, should be a fairly simple one: “You decide what’s in the interest of the public health, and then you do that.”

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Dr. Rizzo said his group hasn’t been contacted by the White House. He said Mr. Trump’s mention of jobs in the tweet could be a signal that any administration action might somehow leave vape shops free to sell flavors that appeal to children. Dr. Rizzo said he is adamant any ban should preclude sale of flavors like menthol and mint.

The Trump administration in September said it planned to take off the market any e-cigarettes that weren’t formulated to taste like tobacco. Since then, the administration has decided to make an exception for menthol flavors.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has already expressed concerns that the Trump administration is backing off what the group called the administration’s “unequivocal promise to America’s kids and families” to get rid of flavors, including mint and menthol.

“With every additional comment from the White House, there is concern that for inaccurate political purposes, they’re backing off what they said,” the group’s president,

Matthew L. Myers,

said Monday.

He said the White House turned down a requested meeting by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids last week. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Apparently it’s not a problem to meet with the industry,” Mr. Myers said.

One group arguing against a complete ban on flavors in e-cigarettes is the American Vaping Association, which says vaping is a safer health alternative than traditional cigarettes.

“If only tobacco and menthol flavors are available, fewer adults will attempt to quit using vaping and more cigarettes will be smoked as a result,” said association president Gregory Conley.

He called on the Trump administration to alternatives, such as raising the age of purchase to 21.

Politics could also enter into the equation. Vaping advocates have shared with the campaign and White House polling data commissioned by the Vapor Technology Association, that shows flavored e-cigarettes are popular with adult consumers in key election states, including Florida, Arizona and Michigan, and a ban was almost universally opposed.

The online poll was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, which also does work for the Trump campaign.

“The survey results illustrate vapor consumers are likely to become single issue voters based on a candidate’s position on vapor products, particularly coming out to vote against candidates who support a flavor ban,” according to a polling memo from late October. Three-quarters of consumers support banning the same of vapor products to anyone under age 21, according to the poll.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the FDA was preparing to release details on a plan to remove most e-cigarette flavors from the market, including mint.

Several major retailers, including

Walmart Inc.

and Walgreens, already have said they would discontinue all e-cigarette sales.

Data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that mint or menthol flavors ranked No. 2, after fruity flavors, as the most commonly reported type of e-cigarette product among middle-school and high-school students who vaped in the past 30 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 39 deaths and well over 1,000 illnesses have occurred in recent months among people who have vaped. Most recently, the CDC said that in 29 samples tested from vaping patients, it had detected vitamin E oil in all 29.

The oil, known as vitamin E acetate, is sometimes added to vaping products, especially illicit ones, containing the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Juul Labs Inc., the market-leading e-cigarette maker, said its products don’t contain either THC or the oil.

Juul, in anticipation of an anticipated ban on flavors that draw in children, last week said it would no longer accept orders for mint-flavored pods. Juul, in response to the president’s tweet, said it is “continuing to refrain from lobbying the administration on its draft flavor guidance while we take significant actions to combat underage use and convert adult smokers.”

Write to Thomas M. Burton at tom.burton@wsj.com and Alex Leary at alex.leary@wsj.com

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