Trump moves to ban flavored vapes 1 week after Whitmer’s action

By: - September 11, 2019 2:14 pm

President Donald J. Trump, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House via Flickr Public Domain

The President Donald Trump administration on Wednesday moved to ban flavored vaping products, just days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a similar policy. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Mackinac Policy Conference
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 29, 2019 | Andrew Roth

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told reporters that the administration is taking steps to begin removing all flavored vaping products from store shelves around the country, leaving only tobacco-flavored products, according to the Associated Press.

“A lot of people think vaping is wonderful, is great. … It’s really not,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We have to find out the extent of the problems. … It’s so new … but we’re going to find out.”

The move by the Trump administration comes exactly one week after Whitmer, a Democrat, became the first governor to sign a ban on flavored products, citing a health emergency and increased use among teenagers. That sparked outrage from the industry and several GOP lawmakers.

In a statement on Wednesday, Whitmer praised Trump’s move. 

“I’m glad this administration is doing the right thing and following Michigan’s lead to ban flavored vaping products. This is great news for our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said. 

“Right now, companies are getting our kids hooked on nicotine by marketing flavors like apple juice, bubble gum, and candy,” the governor continued. Banning these flavors is a bold step that will keep our kids healthy and safe from the harmful effects of vaping. I’m proud that Michigan has been a leader on this issue, and I’m ready to continue working to protect our kids and our public health.” 

Whitmer’s ban, which so far lacks several specifics, pending the filing of paperwork with state regulators, quickly drew praise from several public health groups.

However, several Republicans in the state House of Representatives were less happy with the proposal. The House Oversight Committee has a hearing scheduled for Thursday morning to discuss Whitmer’s proposed ban. 

State Rep. Beau LaFave at the open carry rally at the Michigan Capitol, Sept. 10, 2019 | Claire Moore

State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) has been among the most outspoken members in criticizing Whitmer’s ban, calling her “Emperor Whitmer.”

LaFave did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday as news of Trump’s potential ban spread. But in a tweet to a Democratic colleague, LaFave said his mind remains unchanged. 

“I’m not some partisan hack like others in this building,” LaFave wrote. “I don’t like it under Whitmer, and I won’t like it under Trump.”

Meanwhile, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, which last week called Whitmer’s proposed ban “illegal,” also slammed the Trump administration move. 

“In the history of the United States, prohibition has never worked. It didn’t work with alcohol. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It won’t work with e-cigarettes,” Conley said in a statement. “The President should meet with just one of the millions of American voters who have used flavors to quit smoking before moving forward on this draconian approach to regulation and public policy.”

The AVA noted, however, that the Trump plan has a key difference from the Michigan ban. 

At the federal level, the AVA says it appears that Trump’s plan will go through the “normal rulemaking process” with the Food and Drug Administration, allowing time for public input. 

“There is no need for vapers to panic and believe that a flavor ban could go into effect this month,” the AVA said.

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.