Yesterday, President Donald Trump held his long-awaited meeting with vaping advocacy groups, medical lobbyists, and leading e-cig retailers to debate the possible relevance of nationwide flavor bans.  The president first announced his intentions to implement such a ban during a September 11 press conference at the White House but has recently signaled that he may be changing his mind.

Also, in attendance during the Friday meeting were officials from the FDA and the CDC, Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who sat directly to the president’s right, and White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway. The ant-vaping lobby was represented by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association which actually supports a total ban on all vapor products.  Fighting on behalf of the adult vaping community were chiefly Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association (AVA) and Tony Abboud of the Vapor Technology Association (VTA). 

Trump appears open-minded and even knowledgeable amid discussions of flavor bans

During the extended conference that was at least partially broadcast in real time by ABC News Live,  Mr. Trump seemed remarkably open to hearing all sides of the often prickly debate.  He also asked some very articulate and pointed questions, which shows some rather substantial growth and breadth of knowledge of the vapor industry in just a few short weeks.  Trump’s previous and more generic stance of “vaping kills” is now morphing into a more cohesive message based on scientific and statistical facts. 

Throughout the meeting, one issue in particular kept popping up over and over again.  Black Market vapes, it appears, is catching the primary focus of Trump’s attention these days.    

 “The one thing I see though, you watch prohibition, you look at, with the alcohol, you look at cigarettes, if you don’t give it to them, it’s going to come here illegally. Okay.  They’re going to make it.  But instead of Reynolds or Juul or legitimate companies, good companies, making something that’s safe, they’re going to be selling stuff on the street corner that could be horrible.   That’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget.  I’ve seen it.  You just have to look at the history of it. And now, instead of having a flavor that’s at least safe, they’re going to be having a flavor that’s poison.  That’s a big problem.”

Of course, vaping advocates usually sided with the president on this issue during the contentious debate, and the anti-vapers would either offer no response or try to sway the conversation into another direction.  For example, Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), lied to the president’s face when he said that tobacco flavors – not melon or bubblegum, for example – were the most popular flavors purchased by America’s youth.

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Trump seemed skeptical because he repeatedly asked JUUL CEO K.C. Crosthwaite, a former Altria executive, why the company had decided to pull flavored cartridges from the market. If CTFK’ Myers is right, then Juul is an even more devious company than Trump had suspected. 

The AVA’s Greg Conley reminded the president that at the time of his September announcement, the FDA and the CDC already knew that Black Market THC-containing cartridges was the likely cause of the deadly outbreak of recent lung injuries among vapers.  Nicotine-based flavors that are FDA-regulated are responsible for exactly zero of the “vaping-related” deaths.    

Perhaps in a clever attempt to remind the president that a large percentage of the voting vaping community is decidedly pro-Trump, Conley references presidential wannabe Democrat Michael Bloomberg.  The former Mayor of New York, Conley says, is “no friend of the president,” and Bloomberg is willing to spend $160 million of his own money to wipe out the American vapor industry completely. 

This message seemed to resonate very strongly with the president.  Not only would a Trump vaping ban alienate many of his voters, it would also kill an estimated 100,000 American jobs.    And with an economy potentially on the verge of recession and a China Trade Ware always looming, this is another risk that Trump appears unwilling to take. 

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(Image courtesy ABC News)