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Donald Trump holds court over fiery White House debate on vaping

President Trump said Friday he wants to raise the legal purchasing age for e-cigarettes to 21 but worries an outright ban on some products would create a black market, weighing in as he hosted a fiery debate between advocates concerned about teen vaping and industry reps who say flavored products create jobs and help adult smokers quit.

Mr. Trump is seeking to balance those interests as he wavers on a September pitch to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, except menthol and tobacco-flavored ones.

Seated at a long table, the president said “we are going to be” raising the age threshold from 18 to 21, though said an outright ban on flavored e-cigs might drive sales underground.

“If you don’t give it to them, it is going to come here illegally,” he said from the White House. “They could be selling something on a street corner that could be horrible.”

“They are going to have a flavor that is poison,” the president added.

The administration is alarmed by an “epidemic” of e-cigarette use among teens. Seeing a new generation of Americans become addicted to nicotine is not an acceptable tradeoff for declining smoking rates among adults, officials have said, and mysterious deaths linked to vaping have added a sense of urgency.

But conservatives and free-market groups want Mr. Trump to back off a stated plan to wipe the e-cig market of special flavors.

They say adults weaning off regular cigarettes rely on fruity flavors, and that a ban would put “mom and pop” vape shops out of business.

“Adults like flavors. That’s precisely why everything from vodka to ice cream comes in a variety of flavors. When it comes to vaping, this holds true,” the groups told Mr. Trump in an October letter led by Americans for Tax Reform.

Anti-vaping advocates, however, told Mr. Trump that straight-A students are flunking out of school because they’re addicted to nicotine. They want Mr. Trump to stick to his guns and ban all flavors.

From the White House, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said “most adults are not using flavors” and that a major company — JUUL — managed to voluntarily withdraw flavored products.

Industry leaders at the table objected, saying they often sell flavored products to adults.

Mr. Romney appeared unmoved, saying at one point: “Utah is a Mormon state, and half the kids in high school are vaping.”

Democrats such as Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois has said Mr. Trump will be putting millions of children at risk if he “flip flops” on his earlier bid to ban flavored e-cigs.

The White House said Mr. Trump’s interest in the debate shouldn’t be viewed as a retreat.

“As the president has said, there is a serious problem among our youth and their growing addiction to e-cigarettes. The policymaking process is not stalled – it continues to move forward,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere said.

He said Mr. Trump wanted to hear from “all sides” of the issue “as we continue to develop responsible guidelines that protect the public health and the American people.”

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who pushed for a crackdown on e-cigarettes, told CNBC on Friday that even if Mr. Trump got “spooked” by pushback, there may be a path forward. Officials might be able to carve adult-only vape shops out of any ban while cracking down on products sold to youth at convenience and gas stores.

“You don’t want to just sweep the market of everything,” he said. “You want to leave something for the adults.”

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Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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