The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized its enforcement policy Thursday that essentially bans certain unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to children, including fruit and mint flavors.
On Tuesday, Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago that he expected an announcement "very shortly" and that "the flavors are going to be checked".
Amid the uncertainty, Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, said she was advising OMEGA members to comply.
"We have more kids who are addicted to nicotine today than at any time in the last 20 years and it's entirely because the e-cigarette industry has been marketing highly-flavored, highly-addictive products to our kids for the last four or five years and it's worked". The majority of e-cigarette users reported using flavored varieties, with fruit flavors being the most popular, followed by mint or menthol.
"We will not stand idly by as this crisis among America's youth grows and evolves, and we will continue monitoring the situation and take further actions as necessary", Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
"By leaving menthol flavored e-cigarettes widely available and totally exempting liquid flavored products, this policy will not stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic". However, if manufacturers of such flavors are seen to be targeting young people, there's the potential for the enforcement scope to expand to encompass them too.
The flavor ban applies to e-cigarettes that use pre-filled nicotine cartridges mainly sold at gas stations and convenience stores.
Industry lobbyists seeking to protect flavors were joined by conservative organizations like Americans for Tax Reform, which opposed regulatory limits that they said would harm the small businesses that manufacture vaping flavors, retailers that sell them and adult consumers of e-cigarettes. At the time, Azar said those two flavors appeared to be popular with teenagers, especially since Juul had pulled its fruit and dessert flavors from shelves.
A draft of the proposed rule stated that any flavored e-cigarette fluid would have to be removed from the market within 90 days.
Vaping advocates say a flavor sales ban would curtail some adult smokers' efforts to quit, put small vaping companies out of business and eliminate jobs.
More than 5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, according to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey published in December. The company suspended nationwide sales of sweet flavors like mango and cucumber in October, then added mint to the list in November. "Instead of moving forward with an effective proposal that could have a meaningful effect in curbing the youth e-cigarette epidemic, we once again have a hollowed-out policy that will allow the tobacco industry to continue to attract kids to a lifetime of nicotine addiction".
The HHS said manufacturers that want to market flavoured e-cigarettes or e-liquids will need to submit an application to the FDA that demonstrates the product meets applicable standards.
"We think we're going to get it back onto the market very, very quickly, but we have to protect the children".