WASHINGTON (AP/Meredith) — As the rates of teen use and vaping-related deaths and breathing illnesses continues to rise, the White House wants to cut down on e-cigarette use.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration will propose banning thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes to combat a recent surge in underage vaping.
The Food and Drug Administration will begin developing guidelines to remove all fruit, candy, or dessert flavored vaping products from the market, allowing the sale of only tobacco flavored items.
"We have a problem in our country - it's a new problem, a problem nobody thought much about a few years ago - and it's called vaping,” announced President Trump on Wednesday.
No single device, ingredient or additive has been identified, though many cases involve marijuana vaping devices.
Now Valley vape shops wonder what this will mean for their business.
“It would affect us in a super negative way,” said Brandon Hansen, manager of Haus of Vapors.
The Haus of Vapors, an e-cigarette shop at Indian School and 28th St, the ban would limit their sales from hundreds of items currently, to just four tobacco flavored products.
“It has nothing to do with vape stores and vape store employees, and has more to do with people buying illegal substances from illegal sources and they're not getting it the safe way."
His is one of hundreds of shops like it Valley wide. If they can’t sell, he believes it could mean lost jobs for many.
“When we come in here, we have genuine conversations with good people that are trying to quit smoking cigarettes, that’s what we do. We don't sell to kids, we don't sell drugs, we don't do any of that,” said Hansen.
He says it could even create a black market for vape products, with people making their own with possibly hazardous side effects.
“Just with anything, if you take it away from somebody they're going to find a way to do it anyway,” said Hansen.
It will take several weeks to develop the proposed flavor restrictions, which will be subject to public input before taking effect.
"I wish Americans hated heroin dealers as much as they hated vape store employees right now,” said Hansen.
A sixth person in the United States has died from lung disease related to vaping, Kansas health officials said Tuesday.
The proposal announced by Trump officials would only apply to nicotine vaping products, which are regulated by the FDA.
The FDA has had the authority to ban vaping flavors since 2016, but has previously resisted calls to take that step. Agency officials instead said they were studying if flavors could help smokers quit traditional cigarettes.
"We simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they can secure FDA approval, if they can," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Azar said flavored products could apply for FDA permission to reenter the market. But under agency standards, only products that represent a net benefit to the nation's public health can win FDA clearance.
Azar said the administration would allow tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes to remain available as an option for adult smokers. But he said that if children begin using those products, "we will take enforcement action there also."
A 2009 law banned all flavors from traditional cigarettes except menthol. But that law did not apply to e-cigarettes, which were then a tiny segment of the tobacco market.
A ban on flavors would represent a huge blow to the vaping industry, including companies such as Juul, which has grown into a multibillion dollar business by selling mint, fruit and dessert flavored-nicotine products.
Juul and other vaping companies argue that their products are intended to help adult smokers wean themselves off traditional paper-and-tobacco cigarettes. But there is little evidence that e-cigarettes are effective for helping smokers quit.
Federal law prohibits e-cigarette and all other tobacco sales to those under 18. But last year, 1 in 5 high school students reported vaping in the past month, according to government survey figures. Government health officials have called the trend an "epidemic," and new statistics due out this fall are expected to show the problem worsening.
More than 80 percent of underage teens who use e-cigarettes say they picked the product because it "comes in flavors that I like," according to government surveys.
A few local governments, including San Francisco, have passed bans on flavored tobacco. And this month Michigan moved to become the first state to ban flavored electronic cigarettes. But other proposed flavor bans have stalled in state legislatures this year, often facing opposition from vaping lobbyists.
E-cigarettes have been on the U.S. market for more than a decade. FDA officials have repeatedly delayed enforcing regulations on them, responding to industry complaints that it would wipe out thousands of small vaping companies.
Most experts agree the aerosol from e-cigarettes is less harmful than cigarette smoke since it doesn't contain most of the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco. E-cigarettes generally heat liquid containing nicotine. But there is virtually no research on the long-term effects of vaping.
The HHS released a statement about the proposed ban that you can read here.