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Trump Administration Plans to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials said on Wednesday they want to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, at a time when hundreds of people have been sickened by mysterious vaping-related illnesses.

Sitting in the Oval Office with Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Ned Sharpless, the acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner, President Trump acknowledged that there was a vaping problem, and said, “We’re going to have to do something about it.”

Mr. Azar said that the F.D.A. would outline a plan within the coming weeks for removing most flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

The move follows increasing pressure by lawmakers, parents and educators, who have been overwhelmed by the popularity of vaping among youths, and felt powerless to keep e-cigarettes out of their schools.

Details were sparse, but officials said the proposal may include a ban on menthol and mint flavored e-cigarettes, which have been the among the most popular flavors for the industry. Research has shown that these flavors are very appealing to youths and to nonsmokers, although some vaping advocates note that they hold great appeal for smokers who want to use e-cigarettes to quit.

The first lady, Melania Trump, also attended the White House meeting. “She’s got a son,” the president said of their teenage child, Barron. “She feels very strongly about it,” he said of Mrs. Trump’s interest in the vaping issue.

Last week, Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a longtime opponent of tobacco and e-cigarettes, warned Dr. Ned Sharpless, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, that if the agency failed to remove e-cigarette flavors from the market, he would call for the commissioner’s resignation. After Kansas reported a sixth vaping-related death on Tuesday , Senator Durbin again slammed the F.D.A. for failing to take decisive action to protect the public from e-cigarettes.

Pressure also began to mount as Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, decided to step in by announcing a $160 million push to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Long an opponent of traditional smoking, the former mayor said his organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, would seek prohibitions of flavored e-cigarettes in at least 20 cities and states.

In New York, Governor Cuomo also directed state health officials to subpoena companies that market or sell so-called thickening agents, which are sometimes added to illicit vaping products. A state laboratory, which detected the agents in vaping products collected from New York’s patients, found that they were nearly pure vitamin E acetate oil, which officials have said is a potential cause of some of the illnesses.

Hospitals and health officials in nearly three dozen states have reported nearly 500 cases of vaping-related illnesses since the beginning of the summer. Doctors have said that many patients appear to have vaped some THC or cannabis-related products, although others have reported using e-cigarettes as well. No one has singled out a particular company, device or product as the possible culprit.

Deaths have been reported in Illinois, Kansas, California, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. The patients’ ages ranged from the 30s to middle-aged or older, and some had underlying lung or other chronic conditions, health officials said.

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