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Trump compares proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes to the Prohibition

President Donald Trump has peddled back from his promise to ban e-cigarettes, saying he believes a ban would be pointless.

‘If you don’t give it to them, it’s going to come here illegally,’ Trump told a round-table of experts discussing flavored vapes.  

He likened a proposed ban to the Prohibition, saying it would only spur a ‘black market’ of dangerous vaping devices, though there is no evidence any flavored e-cigarettes could be safe.

‘You just have to look at the history of it,’ Trump said, according to the New York Times. 

During a Friday on the youth vaping epidemic at the White House, President Trump (left) told attendees including HHS Secretary Alex Azar (right of Trump), Kentucky State Senator Julie Raque Adams and American Vaping Association President Greg Conley, (right) that a flavored e-cig ban could trigger a black market (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

‘Now, instead of having a flavor that’s at least safe, they’re going to be having a flavor that’s poison.’

His words came after rumors emerged that Trump has been warned that a ban on e-cigarettes could stir political backlash from the powerful tobacco and e-cigarette industry. 

What’s more, Trump’s FDA nominee earlier this week said he has not seen enough evidence to suggest flavored vapes should be banned.    

Trump and his top health officials said in September they would remove all fruit, dessert, candy and other sweet flavors from the US market within weeks. 

But the plan has faced aggressive pushback from vaping lobbyists and conservative groups, who have warned that the move could cost Trump votes in states he needs to win re-election.

Under pressure, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, has pulled all flavors except for menthol and tobacco. 

But hundreds of smaller firms continue to sell flavored e-cigarettes. Flavors have been banned from traditional cigarettes in the US since 2009, except for menthol.

A recent FDA study found that sweet and minty flavors are the most popular among high school and middle school students.  

Massachusetts lawmakers voted this week to ban flavored vaping products and menthol cigarettes alike. If Governor Charlie Baker signs the bill into law, as expected, it will be the strictest in the nation. 

On Thursday, the New York City Council voted to ban flavored e-cigs as well, despite considerable outcry from local businesses. 

In its study, published earlier this month, the FDA said the findings suggested that Trump’s proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes would likely fail if it didn’t include an embargo on menthol products. 

At least one public health expert, however, has made the same argument that Trump today used to back away from his ban proposal. 

In a recent interview with, Dr Michael Siegel, a professor of community health at Boston University, said that a small subset of highly ‘experienced’ vapers make their own flavored e-cigarette liquids at home. 

But they use safe ingredients and only attempt to make their own products after thorough research, he claims. 

Dr Siegel worries that will all change if suddenly e-cigarette users are no longer able to get their favorite flavors. 

He warns that if flavors become illegal, a black market for the products may be formed by dealers using diluents – including vitamin E acetate, the chemical the CDC now suspects may be mixing with THC to drive deadly lung illnesses – to make their product stretch further and pad their profits. 

In turn, he says, that could lead to yet another outbreak of vaping deaths.  

‘If flavors are banned, I have a feeling that that’s going to lead to a lot of vapers doing it DIY because they can’t buy their flavors any more,’ said Dr Siegel. 

‘And then we’ll have more inexperienced people start doing it, and the government has no control over it and can do nothing to monitor the situation.’    

President Trump expressed more international concern, suggesting that counterfeiters in Mexico and China would make the flavors if the US wouldn’t. 

‘Won’t they just be made illegally?’ he said, according to the New York Times. 

Trump may punt he issue further, as Harold Wimmer, chief executive of the American Lung Association, told the Times that the president suggested he might have the group reconvene at the White House again. 


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