LAND OF THE FREE: Trump Administration Prepares to Ban Flavored E-Cigs

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Citing concerns over youth using flavored e-cigarettes, the Trump administration is planning to ban the sale of all non-tobacco flavored e-juice in a move that echoes the federal government’s hostility toward traditional cigarette companies.

Today U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar told reporters the administration would move to ban the sale of flavored e-cigs, and took to Twitter to expand on his statement.

According to Azar, the administration “will be finalizing policies that will clear flavored e-cigarettes from the market.” He elaborated that “New provisional data show that youth use continues to rise rapidly, and we will not stand idly by.”

Azar continued, “While the current plan is to not include tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, if data show kids migrating to tobacco-flavored products, we will do what’s necessary to tackle continued youth use of these products.

It is unclear whether the policies will specifically target cartridge based products that use nicotine salts, such as the industry-dominating Juul, or whether the policies will serve as a dragnet to stop the sale of more traditional e-juice, sold in vials instead of cartridges, as well.

The move comes as one of the leading U.S. based tobacco companies, Altria, plans to merge with its international sister corporation, Phillip Morris International, as reported by USA Today. 

After years of the federal government targeting one of the South’s largest industries, Altria separated into two companies, so that Phillip Morris International could focus on markets that are less unfriendly toward tobacco companies.

In growing economies, including China, Phillip Morris International has found a new market, and such a merger could potentially mean more dollars pouring into the United States economy.

Meanwhile, Altria recently purchased a 35 per cent stake in Juul.

The federal government may be repeating history and damaging the same American companies who were hurt by the fall of tobacco, even as international tobacco production – and consumption – in countries like China continues to boom.

Azar’s move also comes as Congress is under increasing pressure to address the recent spate of e-cigarette related illnesses, which have claimed at least six lives.

However, the medical community and vaping proponents note that in virtually all cases of vaping related illnesses and death, the user had been using THC cartridges as a marijuana replacement.

After the death of a man in Oregon, The Oregonian noted that “State and federal investigations have focused on vape oils with THC, the chemical in cannabis that gives users a high,” and added that “Most victims vaped such products, officials said, though some reported only using nicotine-based e-cigarettes.”

It remains unclear what the underlying motivators are behind the Trump administration’s move, and skeptics believe the Chamber of Commerce may simply have identified another industry it dislikes for destruction.