Move to ban flavored e-cigarettes welcomed by area health advocates

In this Tuesday, April 10, 2018 photo, a high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in such places as restrooms or hallways at a school in Marshfield, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

President Donald Trump’s move to ban flavored e-cigarettes is “very good news,” according to Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

But it’s also “one of the most overdue governmental actions we’ve seen in years,” he said.

The action by the Trump administration comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there are more than 450 cases of lung disease associated with vaping. There have also been six deaths. The CDC is investigating.

Jayne Flowers, manager of the Virginia Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program, said there has been a long-standing concern about the way vaping products were marketed, with flavors that appeal to teenagers and young adults.

For instance: Juul, a maker of vaping devices, states on its website that the company was founded by former smokers “with the goal of improving the lives of the world’s billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” Yet it offers eight flavors that include “crème,” “mango,” “mint” and “fruit.”

Other manufacturers, such as Blu, have offered such flavors as blueberry, cherry and “Citra Zing,” advertised as “a taste of sweet with a zing of citrus.”

Such flavored e-cigarettes, Myers said, “have fueled an extraordinary epidemic of e-cigarette use among our youth.”

At that age, they’re said to be especially vulnerable: “Young people can be highly addicted to nicotine very quickly,” said Flowers, noting that teenagers’ brains are still developing.

Various vaping nicotine e-liquids or “juice” are shown in a lab at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Some e-cigarette manufacturers have suggested that their products could help adults quit smoking, a claim that Myers dismissed.

“There’s no scientific evidence that the use of flavors is necessary to help adults quit smoking,” Myers said.

Flowers pointed out that e-cigarettes are not FDA-approved smoking cessation devices.

“We certainly have always advised people to totally quit, whether it’s cigarettes or other types of tobacco or nicotine products — including vape products,” Flowers said.

Trump voiced concern over the deaths connected to the use of vaping devices, and Flowers said her agency’s recommendation is to “try to avoid vaping anything at this point in time, because of the concern with this newly recognized illness.”

The CDC said it’s not clear if the lung disease that’s proved fatal is linked to the devices, the flavors in the liquids used, or nicotine or THC in some e-cigarette products.

Health departments across the U.S. are documenting cases of lung disease believed to be tied to vaping, and Flowers said that as the investigation into cases continues, it would not be unusual to see the numbers go up.

“When you begin active surveillance, you’re going to find additional cases, which means we’ll have more reported to us,” she said.

Anyone who uses e-cigarette products and finds that they have symptoms of lung disease should stop vaping and get in touch with their doctor or health care professional, Flowers said. Those symptoms can include “shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or chest pain,” she said.

If someone with those symptoms has been vaping recently, “they should see their health care provider,” Flowers said.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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