After inheriting a teen vaping epidemic that developed under the Obama-Biden administration, President Trump has made extensive efforts to address this public health crisis. From aggressive action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21, Mr. Trump has done significantly more than the previous administration to keep vaping products out of the hands of minors. And his efforts are working, with the early release of the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey showing 1.8 million fewer American youth currently using e-cigarettes compared to last year.
While teens’ use of traditional products are at record lows, use of e-cigarettes had been on the rise for nearly 10 years. Back in 2013, several House Democrats sent a letter to the FDA raising the alarm after CDC data showed “the percentage of adolescents who use electronic cigarettes, or ‘e-cigarettes’ is growing rapidly,” with more than 1.7 million U.S. middle- and high-school students trying e-cigarettes over the previous year.
Where past administrations dropped the ball, the Trump administration took action. Former Trump-appointed FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb labeled this crisis an “epidemic” and urged the vaping industry to address the problem or risk having their flavored products pulled from the market.
And this was not a hollow threat.
Since then, the FDA has taken historic actions to restrict the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to kids. In 2018, the agency issued more than 1,300 warning letters and civil fines to retailers that illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors, which they discovered through a nationwide, undercover blitz of in-person and online retail stores. And earlier this year, the FDA announced it would be prioritizing enforcement against unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to kids, including fruit and mint flavors.
Just last week, there was an important deadline for tobacco products that came on the market as of Aug. 8, 2016, which were required to submit extensive applications to the FDA to remain on the market. These “Premarket Tobacco Applications” require testing to prove that the new product meets the FDA standard “deemed appropriate for the protection of public health.” This will help take dangerous, unapproved vaping products out of the market.
All of the FDA action is in addition to Mr. Trump signing into law a bill that raises the legal age of purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. This was the first change to the legal smoking age in 40 years, and research shows this momentous policy change will undoubtedly make it harder for underage teens to access vaping products.
President Trump and his administration have taken aggressive steps to address the teen vaping epidemic, and early results show that we are finally headed in the right direction.
In addition, Nevada recently reported an astonishing decrease in youth tobacco sales violations, from 26.7% in 2019 down to 9.1% this year. Nevada Tobacco Enforcement Unit head Hillary Bunker said that the federal Tobacco 21 legislation was the reason for the decrease. And anecdotally, one Georgia high school saw a marked decrease in the confiscation of vaping products after the state instituted the Tobacco 21 policy.
While there is certainly still work to be done to reduce teens’ use of e-cigarette products, all signs point to our country heading in the right direction for the first time in a decade, thanks to the president’s efforts.
• Corrin Rankin is the founder of the Legacy Republican Alliance and an advisory board member for Black Voices for Trump.
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