In a surprise meeting on Wednesday, President Donald Trump pushed to ban all non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Trump discussed the proposal during a meeting at the White House after discussing the move with advisers like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Norman Sharpless, Bloomberg reported.
“Not only is it a problem overall, but really specifically with respect for children,” Trump told reporters. He continued, “We may very well have to do something very, very strong about it.”
Secretary Azar said the FDA would soon issue regulatory guidance to remove flavored vaping products from the market. The secretary cited statistics showing five million children using e-cigarettes of some kind, a number he found “alarming.” In December, the US Surgeon General declared underage vaping “an epidemic,” laying the groundwork for future regulatory action.
Last week, federal officials announced that over 450 people across the country had grown sick with deadly lung illnesses that have been linked to e-cigarette use. The number of sick people has increased dramatically over the past few weeks, and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned people to halt the use of e-cigarettes entirely.
The White House’s move comes just one day after former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg called for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in The New York Times, calling it “an urgent health crisis.”
It’s been a long year for e-cigarette manufacturers like Juul with threats of regulation being thrown from all across the government. Last summer, lawmakers like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed similar regulations to what the president floated today. Durbin’s Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids Act, or the SAFE Kids Act, if approved, would require manufacturers to prove that their flavors do not tempt minors to use the devices.
Juul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.