An alarming rise in a mysterious and sometimes deadly lung disease linked to vaping has the Trump administration gunning for non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes in a bid to at least discourage young people from taking up the habit.
The lung disease has so far sickened hundreds of people across the nation and killed six, CNBC reports. U.S. health officials suspect a vitamin E oil additive in some vaping products may be to blame, but research is preliminary.
In the meantime, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the Trump administration is moving to ban all fruity, sweet and minty e-cigarette flavors—everything except for tobacco flavors.
“We intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools, and communities,” Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
Critics have blamed the availability of fruit- and mint-flavored tobacco marketed by vaping companies like Juul for e-cigarettes’ growing appeal to young people, including underage teens. E-cigarette firms are also under scrutiny for their marketing practices, which opponents say illegally target children.
Last year, as CNBC notes, then-Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb labeled vaping by teens an “epidemic.”
Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual survey of teens showed more than a quarter of high school students used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, with the “overwhelming majority” saying they vaped fruit and menthol or mint flavors, HHS said in a press release.
Vaping also has a potentially outsize impact on the black community, with a 2016 National Institutes of Health study finding that while black people had a lower incidence of e-cigarette use than Latinx and white folks, black smokers who had tried them were much more likely (72 percent) to plan to continue using them, versus Latinx (47 percent) and white (53 percent) smokers.