WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar held a roundtable at the White House on Friday afternoon to discuss the Administration’s policy on flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Invited by the White House to participate, NACS President and CEO Henry Armour attended the meeting, which included other stakeholders from public health groups, the vaping industry, advocacy groups, nonprofits and state officials.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed draft guidance on e-cigarettes that would have effectively banned stores that allow children to enter, such as convenience stores, from selling most flavored e-cigarettes, while allowing perceived adult-only stores, like vape shops, to continue selling these products. NACS has strongly opposed the proposal because it creates an unlevel playing field in the marketplace by allowing one channel of trade to sell legal products while prohibiting another from doing the same.
A study published by the American Journal of Health Promotion last year found that when purchasing an e-cigarette from a retail outlet, minors were far more likely to get them from the internet, vape shops and tobacco shops than from a convenience store. In fact, a vape shop or tobacco shop is 100 times more likely to sell a vapor product to a minor than a convenience store.
In September, President Trump stated publicly that he would clear the market of ENDS, with the exception of the tobacco flavor because of the youth vaping crisis and the reported illnesses. Since then the President has signaled he may be willing to consider a solution that would allow certain flavors to stay on the market and indicated that he intended to convene a meeting with various stakeholders to resolve the problem in a way that protected jobs and public health interests. That roundtable was held Friday afternoon and included Secretary Azar and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). President Trump sought feedback from participants on youth usage, a flavor ban, a potential black market and the economic impact on businesses.
During the meeting, President Trump expressed concern about the negative consequences of banning flavors, the Wall Street Journal reports. Instead of legitimate companies “making something that’s safe, they are going to be selling stuff on a street corner that could be horrible. That’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget,” the President said. “Now instead of having a flavor that’s at least safe, they are going to be having a flavor that’s poison,” he said. President Trump also reiterated support for raising the minimum tobacco purchase age.
After the meeting, Armour stated, “I appreciate President Trump bringing stakeholders together today to discuss the best path forward on vaping policy. The convenience industry shares his concern with youth vaping and spends millions of dollars every year to help prevent underage consumers from obtaining these products. There are more than 153,000 convenience stores across the nation, including 95,000 single-store operators. I shared with the President our industry’s view that any policy in this area should advance our health goals, be based on data and apply equally across the economy in order to be effective. We hope and trust the Administration will follow those basic principles.
Video coverage of the meeting is available here. Armour’s exchange with President Trump can be heard at minutes 7:54 to 12:18 and again at 25:00 to 26:05.
The Trump Administration is expected to finalize its policy in the coming weeks.