President Trump teased new federal restrictions on vaping today to reporters at the White House, suggesting that the government might raise the age limit on e-cigarette use to 21. The announcement is a change from a policy suggested in September, when Trump said the federal government would consider banning flavored vaping products.
“We’re going to be coming out with a very important position on vaping,” Trump said, according to CNBC. “We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so, so we’ll be coming out with something next week very important on vaping.”
Several legislators at both a federal and state level have pushed for similar age restrictions in recent months. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill in April that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21. A similar bill was introduced in Wisconsin just this week.
In 2015, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law raising the smoking and vaping age to 21, amid a noticeable rise in young people using e-cigarettes. That trend has continued, with a recent survey showing that one in four high schoolers and one in ten middle schoolers have vaped in the last 30 days.
High numbers of young vapers led the United States Surgeon General to declare youth vaping an epidemic in 2018. Since then, many states and jurisdictions have started enacting regulations designed to crack down on flavored e-cigarette sales and advertising to minors, though some of those bans are being contested in court.
Trump suggested on Friday that the government was still considering restricting flavors, like he focused on in the September announcement. But the language around flavors was tempered today by the mention of other factors — including keeping the e-cigarette industry going. “We’re talking about the age, were talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working,” Trump said according to Reuters.
On October 25th, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s campaign manager had asked the president to consider softening the language of the flavor ban, implying that banning flavors might hurt his re-election chances next year. Among the suggested alternatives to a flavor ban? Raising the vaping age to 21.
Flavored vaping products have been incredibly popular with young people, which is why sweet-flavored products have been the target of regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration in the past. In the past, mint, menthol and tobacco-flavored vapes were allowed to stay on shelves, as regulators assumed those flavors appealed more to adult users. That assumption has come under fire recently, when a survey found mint Juul products were far and away the favorite flavor among high schoolers.
Studies have shown that teens who see e-cigarette ads are more likely to vape, and that teens who do start vaping are more likely to smoke later in life.
A policy announcement from the White House is expected next week.