In an effort to combat youth nicotine consumption, the Trump administration will move forward on a plan to ban most e-cigarette flavors from store shelves.
At an Oval Office meeting Wednesday on vaping and youth e-cigarette use, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that the administration would finalize a rule to ban most e-cigarette flavors.
An HHS news release following the announcement explained that the FDA will finalize a policy to clear the market of "unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products."
"We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth," Azar said in a statement.
Under the forthcoming policy, Azar explained that companies would have to get approval to re-introduce flavored e-cigarette products to the market.
"Once finalized, this compliance policy will serve as a powerful tool that the FDA can use to combat the troubling trend of youth e-cigarette use," acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless said. "The tremendous progress we've made in reducing youth tobacco use in the U.S. is jeopardized by this onslaught of e-cigarette use."
An FDA study found that over 3.6 million middle and high school students were "current" e-cigarette users in 2018. This represented a 1.5 million increase from 2017. The study noted that 3.05 million were high school students, while middle school students accounted for just under 600,000.
There's been some recent concerns about the health risks of vaping following a string of six deaths and an ongoing investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into "severe pulmonary illnesses" related to e-cigarette use. However, many of the reports related to those deaths have overlooked the apparent role of THC vapor products in the recent outbreak.
At Wednesday's Oval Office meeting, President Donald Trump called vaping "a problem in our country."
"It's a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago, and it's called vaping," Trump added, "especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children."
The news comes days after first lady Melania Trump voiced her concerns about youth e-cigarette use on social media.
"I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children," the first lady wrote. "We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth."
"She's got a son," Trump said of the first lady Wednesday. "She feels very, very strongly about it."
On Monday, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on the FDA to "clear the shelves of kid-marketed flavor pods," adding that "VAPING TARGETS KIDS."