The Trump Administration’s E-cigarette Proposal Puts Industry Profits Before Public Health, Risking Continued Youth Epidemic

January 4, 2020

At the start of the New Year, the Trump Administration announced its intended policy to address e-cigarette use, which has skyrocketed among youth. The proposal aims to end the sale of most flavored pod-based vaping products (including mint flavored), yet it will still allow the sale of menthol pods. This proposed policy does not appear to apply to disposable flavored vaping devices nor the thousands of flavored e-liquids used in refillable tank-based vaping devices. 

“The exclusion of menthol-flavored e-liquids is unfounded; and quite simply, adds fuel to the existing tobacco-related disparities. Why President Trump and his administration feel that kids won’t replace the popularly used mint flavored pods with any tobacco product containing menthol is beyond my scope of understanding,” says Dr. Valerie Yerger, Professor of Health Policy at the University of California, San Francisco and Board Member of Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR).

Instead of following the recommendations outlined by public health experts to eliminate flavored e-cigarette products, the policy protects the profits of industry giants such as Juul. As dominant forces in the market, Juul, Altria and other e-cigarette makers rely upon flavored products—including menthol—to target and addict kids, thereby creating a new generation of customers.  

“It’s most concerning that menthol flavored products are completely untouched and will continue to be readily available on the market,” said Cynthia Hallett, President of ANR. “Make no mistake, menthol (like mint) is a flavoring just the same as the fruit or candy options that are consistently reported as most popular with youth.” Menthol has been central to Big Tobacco’s strategy to target youth and communities of color, particularly African Americans. Targeted media messaging and detailed strategies, uncovered in tobacco industry documents, are meant to infiltrate and exploit communities of color. The e-cigarette industry is the tobacco industry and is mimicking every move in Big Tobacco’s playbook. The failure of the Trump Administration to include menthol flavored pods in its proposed policy plays into this scheme.

Communities across the country have shown tremendous leadership by ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars, to curb youth uptake of tobacco. These cities and counties are finding a way to make commerce work while prioritizing the health of their citizens and protecting the future. Do not be fooled: Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers do not care about the health of our children. But, we expect more from decision makers at every level and urge them to take action to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and not just non-menthol e-cigarette products. We strongly encourage municipalities to continue providing protections for their residents by adopting strong local laws that close the loopholes in the Administration’s policy.