- The Washington Times
Monday, November 4, 2019

Anti-smoking advocates on Monday urged President Trump to keep his promise to ban all vaping flavors except tobacco and tried to deliver a petition to the White House, amid reports the president is wavering on his commitment to remove mint and menthol flavors.

“I feel it’s important the White House, as it’s making its final decision on how to go forward on the flavor ban, that they realize there is large support for including in the ban mint and menthol e-cigs,” said Shellie Bressler, a member of the Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes who visited the White House to deliver the anti-vaping petition, which had more than 110,000 signatures.

About 64% of high school e-cigarette users use mint or menthol flavors, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey also shows more than a quarter of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days.

“If menthol or mint e-cigarettes are left on the market, it will create a giant loophole that Juul and other companies will exploit to continue marketing products that appeal to kids — and the evidence is clear that kids will shift to the flavored products that are left,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which led the petition effort.

“If the administration allows menthol or mint e-cigarettes to stay on the market, it will be siding with Juul over America’s kids and undercut its announced commitment to reversing the youth e-cigarette epidemic,” Mr. Myers said.

The Trump administration proposed a ban of non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes in September.

Mint products make up about 70% of Juul’s sales. The leading e-cigarette company has said it will refrain from lobbying against the Trump administration’s proposed e-cigarette flavor ban and “will fully support and comply” with the final policy when effective.

Juul is now only selling its mint and menthol flavors in the U.S. The e-cigarette maker suspended the sale of its non-tobacco, non-menthol-based flavors (mango, creme, fruit and cucumber) in the country last month, pending a review by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, among other organizations, met with the White House Monday afternoon to discuss the e-cigarette ban, said Dave Lemmon, the nonprofit’s director of media relations.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said a menthol exclusion from the Trump administration’s ban seems likely, but the ban could still include mint. But he said that is hard to see being legally defensible unless someone decides to sue.

“At the same time this country is recognizing that marijuana prohibition was an awful idea, Bloomberg-funded anti-vaping activists are trying to convince President Trump to enact a brand new prohibition on an industry that employs over 150,000 Americans,” said Mr. Conley. “President Trump’s re-election team recently warned him that a flavor ban would hurt his chances of winning a second term and an exemption for menthol or mint isn’t going to do a thing to rehabilitate his image among adult vapers.”

He noted that vaping device users generated more than 164,000 signatures on a petition that supports Mr. Trump halting a federal flavor ban of e-cigarettes.

The FDA said in September that the overwhelming majority of youth e-cigarette users reported using popular flavors such as fruit and menthol or mint flavors. The agency is investigating Juul’s outreach and marketing practices, including those targeted at students.

Discussions about a federal e-cigarette ban are happening as vaping-related lung injuries surpass 1,800 probable and confirmed cases nationwide.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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