This article was edited on Nov. 3 to add a reference to a blog by Michael Siegel, and to fix formatting errors. It was originally published Nov. 1.
The Trump administration is ready to ban all flavored vaping products except tobacco and menthol, Axios reported late today. The news was a shock to vaping advocates, because the White House Office of Management and Budget has barely begun its meetings with stakeholders.
Axios reporter Jonathan Swan added on Twitter that President Trump met with administration officials—including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a proponent of the vape ban—Thursday to discuss the policy.
Following intensive lobbying by conservative groups, Trump’s campaign advisers, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, had urged him to reject a flavor ban. But First Lady Melania Trump has recently become a staunch opponent of vaping and an advocate of banning flavors. Reports indicate Mrs. Trump may have influenced the President’s decision to announce a flavor ban in early September, and that she is still pushing for a ban.
Before being formally released, FDA rules are reviewed by the OMB to assess economic impact. The rule was just received at OMB from the FDA on Oct. 25. It is described on the OMB website as being not “economically significant,” which may mean that OMB is not considering the thousands of small vaping businesses that will fail and more than 100,000 employees and owners who will lose their livelihoods as part of its calculations.
Trump recently signed an executive order that the administration claimed would prevent “unaccountable bureaucrats” from imposing “private agendas” on the American public through regulatory guidance. Vaping advocates say that FDA guidance banning flavors that most adult vapers prefer is a perfect example of what Trump says he wants to stop. After all, the FDA and HHS will be banning products without evidence that the ban will even accomplish its supposed goal, to reduce adolescent vaping. There has also been no serious study of the economic impact of the proposed guidance.
On Nov. 3, Dr. Michael Siegel published an excellent discussion on whether an FDA attempt to ban flavored products by issuing guidance would be illegal. Siegel believes such a ban would violate several laws.
Vaping industry leaders and consumer advocates have meetings at OMB scheduled throughout November to voice concerns. The executive agency is responsible for listening to stakeholders before passing judgement on proposed regulations. What is the point of having meetings after the decision has been made?
Vapers have organized a rally across from the White House next Saturday, Nov. 9, to express outrage over the proposed flavor ban. If a ban is announced before the rally, the level of anger will rise dramatically, especially for those vapers who support Trump and consider flavor restrictions a betrayal of his promise to rein in the regulatory state.
During the days before the rally, it will be important to flood the White House—again—with phone calls. Tell the operator you’re outraged by the reports that a flavor ban is on the way. And tell them vapers will be there on Nov. 9 to have our say.