Some flavored vapor products will soon be illegal to purchase.
On Thursday, the Trump administration announced a new prohibition on the sales of fruit- and candy-flavored vapor products, the AP reports. Tobacco- and menthol-flavored products will not be affected, and nor will flavored products sold in tank-based vaping devices, which are exempt from the ban. These exemptions will likely help to appease adult vapers and vape retailers, which primarily sell flavored products in tank-based vaping systems.
“We have to protect our families,” Trump said earlier this week. “At the same time, it’s a big industry. We want to protect the industry.” Last year, Trump proposed a total ban on flavored vape products but abandoned the plan after significant pushback from the industry and consumers.
Public health advocates, naturally, are less than pleased with the exemptions. In a press release, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids accused the administration of capitulating to "Juul, Altria, the vape shops and other e-cigarette interests over our kids."
For people trying to quit smoking, however, vaping can be a literal life-saver. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, vapers had an 18 percent success rate of quitting smoking, which was nearly double that of people who used other nicotine replacement products like patches or gum. Another study in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research surveyed 8,200 smokers, and found that 11 percent of vapers were able to quit versus 6 percent of non-vapers.
That's the fundamental conundrum when it comes to vaping: Vaping helps people quit smoking but it's a growing—and problematic—trend among kids. A recent government survey found that 25 percent of high school students reported vaping in the previous month. But by banning flavored vape products entirely, the liklihood that people seek out dangerous black-market products increases.
Susan Collins, the co-director of the Harm Reduction Research & Treatment Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine, wrote about this problem recently in the Seattle Times. "As a scientist, clinician and parent, my instinct and duty are to protect the public, especially children, from harm. But outright bans could worsen our current crisis and have unintended negative consequences for adults and children alike..." she wrote. "Bans on vaping and related products will almost certainly drive people who vape to use lower-quality, illicitly produced products — or to resume smoking. These are the most dangerous and deadly possible outcomes for the general public, including our children."
The federal ban comes after a nation-wide vape scare in which over 2,500 people were hospitalized and at least 55 died from vaping-related illnesses. According to the CDC, the illnesses were connected to black-market THC vape products that contained vitamin E acetate, not legally purchased flavored vape products, but some states, including Washington, took the scare as an opportunity to ban flavors in the hopes that this will cut down on youth vaping. Now, the Trump administration has decided, the country will follow suit.
The Washington state ban is in place until February when the Board of Health will decide whether or not to make it permanent. According to a spokesperson from the state, whether or not Washington will also carve out exemptions for tank-based devices will be determined then.