Trump to meet with vape industry, public health advocates before new rules

Facing pushback from some conservative allies, the president seems to be softening his desire for a crackdown on e-cigs.
Image:
A demonstrator at a pro-vaping rally on the National Mall in Washington on Nov. 9, 2019.Justin T. Gellerson / for NBC News

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By Alex Seitz-Wald and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he will meet with representatives from the vaping industry ahead of new rules expected from the administration as soon as this week.

Trump in September had suggested he wanted to ban flavored vape products, which prompted a backlash from the e-cigarette industry and vapers, including a rally Saturday outside the White House that attracted hundreds.

On Monday, he tweeted that he would be meeting with representatives from the vape industry, as well public health advocates, who have raised a number of alarming concerns about vaping, from increased teenage usage to links to heart disease.

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Trump has since seemed to backtrack a bit from his initial announcement, implying that he’s now more interested in other restrictions that are more amenable to vapers, such as raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, which would leave flavored products on the market.

Conservative activists have shown polling and other data to the White House and the Trump campaign to argue that cracking down on vaping could cost Trump his re-election, since they claim there are hundreds of thousands of single-issue vape voters in key swing states like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Federal health authorities have reported an outbreak of mysterious illnesses linked to the popular devices.

As of November, there have been more than 2,000 vaping-related lung injuries in all states except Alaska, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Thirty-nine deaths have been confirmed in 24 states and the District of Columbia as of November, the agency said.

Trump's willingness to meet with both groups comes as members of Congress and state lawmakers have demanded strong action following reports of injury or death linked to use of the devices.

In September, Michigan became the first state to prohibit sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to curb the underage vaping epidemic and will cover both online and in-store sales of all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco. Several states, including California, Rhode Island and New York, soon followed with various bans.

San Francisco was the first major U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes, which city supervisors passed unanimously this past June.