The letter to Trump, signed by the Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America, as well as former White House Domestic Policy Council adviser Katy Talento, pressed the president to implement “without delay” the broad prohibition on flavored e-cigarettes he announced Sept. 11 but has since backed away from.
The letter to the White House, which was also signed by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, expressed concern about reports “that e-cigarette companies and other tobacco interests have launched an intense pressure campaign against your administration’s plan.”
In an interview, Talento, who described herself as a fiscal and social conservative, criticized libertarian groups that have been pushing Trump to abandon the e-cigarette ban. Federal data recently showed almost 28 percent of high school students were using e-cigarettes, with fruit and mint the most popular flavors.
“It’s okay with the libertarians to sacrifice our kids’ health and futures on the altars on the flavor preferences of adult addicts,” Talento said. She signed the letter as a “public health expert,” not on behalf of any specific group.
Guy Bentley, director of consumer freedom at the libertarian Reason Foundation, which opposes the e-cigarette ban, said he understands the concerns about protecting young people. But, he added, “Talento appears content with 480,000 Americans dying every year from smoking and seems most concerned with denying adults access to lifesaving vapor products.”
The White House says that Trump is still considering the vaping issue and is planning additional meetings on the issue.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation, 28-24, on Tuesday that would ban flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and cigars. The bill also would raise the federal minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 from 18 and prohibit online sales of most tobacco products. The bill’s future isn’t clear. The legislation — or some of its provisions — might pass the Democratic-controlled House but then face a tougher time gaining traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Still, the bill might play a role in any congressional compromise on vaping.
Part of the debate centered on a provision that would ban menthol cigarettes. Some African American lawmakers said it could cause clashes between black smokers, who use the products at a much higher rate than white smokers, and law enforcement. “The African American community has enough problems with law enforcement” without making menthol cigarettes illegal, said Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va).
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) disagreed, noting that manufacturers targeted African American communities for decades and that black health advocates support a menthol ban.
In the meantime, 66 health and anti-tobacco groups on Tuesday also wrote to the White House expressing support for the Sept. 11 ban on most flavored vapes. And the American Medical Association called for a prohibition on any e-cigarette or vaping product not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a tobacco-cessation product.
In New York City, state Attorney General Letitia James, in announcing the suit against Juul, said “there is no doubt” the company caused the teen vaping epidemic by marketing to minors and misrepresenting the safety of its products. On Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also sued Juul, alleging the company used young-looking models and bright colors to attract teen customers.
North Carolina filed suit against the company in May. Some school districts, counties and individuals have sued the company, as well. Juul has repeatedly said it did not market to minors and that its intended audience is adult smokers. The company has suspended its advertising and halted sales of all flavored vapes but tobacco and menthol.
In a statement responding to the California and New York suits, Juul said that while it has not reviewed the complaints, “we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes."
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the group Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes.