WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will push for the Food and Drug Administration to ban most flavored e-cigarettes, amid a government investigation into hundreds of cases of respiratory infections linked to vaping.
“Vaping has become a very big business as I understand it, like a giant business in a very short period of time. But we can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t have our youth be so affected,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with reporters. “But people are dying with vaping so we’re looking at it very closely.”
Trump spoke alongside First Lady Melania Trump, Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, saying the agencies would be coming back in a few weeks with strong recommendations to remove the products from the market. Trump said he hoped the conference would help spread awareness about the issue.
“It’s so new, but we’re going to find out. And I hope that parents, that they have children and the children are a certain age, I hope they’re going to be able to make wise decisions, maybe based on what we’re saying today,” Trump said.
Azar said that after recommendations are made and guidelines released by the FDA on acceptable products, there would be a 30-day delayed effective date to ban flavored e-cigarettes. At that point, all flavored e-cigarettes, excluding tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, would be removed from American markets, he said.
The Obama administration allowed these types of products to go on the market unregulated by delaying enforcement, in hopes smokers would transition to a less-harmful nicotine delivery system, he said.
“Tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, their manufacturers would by May 2020 have to file for approval by FDA of their products. The other flavored product manufactures can at any time also file, but they would be off the market until approved by FDA,” Azar said. “But what we’ve seen… is the kids are getting access to these products.”
He added, “We simply have to remove these attractive, flavored products from the marketplace until they secure FDA approval, if they can.”
In late August, the FDA launched an investigation into the cause of over 200 cases of severe respiratory illnesses around the country. To date, six American deaths have been linked to vaping and this respiratory illness.
The agency has received 80 samples of e-cigarette liquid as well as liquid containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – the active component in marijuana – for analysis. In a Sept. 6 statement, the FDA said products containing THC also contained “significant amounts of Vitamin E acetate,” a component used in topical consumer products and dietary supplements.
“While the FDA does not have enough data presently to conclude that Vitamin E acetate is the cause of the lung injury in these cases, the agency believes it is prudent to avoid inhaling this substance,” the statement said. “No one substance has been identified in all of the samples tested. Importantly, identifying any compounds that are present in the samples will be one piece of the puzzle but will not necessarily answer questions about what is causing these illnesses.”