President Trump hosted a meeting at the White House on Friday in which he told attendees he wanted to listen to their views and concerns about the future of vaping, health risks, and kids becoming addicted to nicotine via easy access to flavored e-cigarettes. At one point he said that he favored raising the minimum age for buying nicotine vaping products to 21, a widely accepted move, but further definition of potential restrictions or bans to be taken did not immediately become clear.
The meeting at times became chaotic as various groups represented at the table held opposing viewpoints and saw the meeting as an opportunity to sway the president as he considers what moves to take in response to a health crisis resulting from black market vaping products.
At least 47 people have died and 2300 fallen ill from lung-related diseases to date, according to numbers recently reported by Politico.
One obvious surprise in the meeting was to see Mitt Romney, not an ally of the president, seated next to Trump. On the issue of vaping, Romney has been a vocal critic of flavored e-cigs and the danger he says that they pose to children. Romney said that most adults who vape are not using flavors, to which vaping industry leaders shouted in reply, “Yes they do.” They offered sales statistics to back their claim.
“It’s flavor that is drawing the kids in, it’s a health emergency,” said Romney. “Putting out cotton candy flavor … putting out unicorn poop flavor, this is kid product and we have to put the kids first.” Many freedom-loving “grown-ups” counter the argument by asking why cool flavors have to be nixed altogether because kids might like them? Isn’t that a little odd? We’re not talking about six-year-olds here.
In September, Trump told reporters he was moving to prohibit the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, but has since backed away as advisers and lobbyists have warned of political repercussions and the loss of voter support. The big concern over a ban is the loss of thousands of small business jobs, not to mention the alienation of e-cig users.
Watch excerpted footage from the meeting below:
Video by AP
Trump questions the downside of banning flavored e-cigarettes in heated meeting – With Romney openly demonstrating how ignorant he is of vaping, Romney alleged that most adults are not using flavors!!?!! https://t.co/woWLVJkdal
— ScherrCropper (@ScherrCropper) November 22, 2019
Something I actually agree with Donald J. Trump on.
As for Mitt Romney thinking adults don’t want or use flavored e-juice, I don’t know anyone who vapes that doesn’t use flavored, and I know many. His willful ignorance is astonishing. https://t.co/3JH3otdys1
— DustyinBFE (@DustyinBFE) November 23, 2019
Colorful vape debate breaks out at White House
President Trump moderated a lively debate over vaping Friday afternoon, which included colorful comments such as Sen. Mitt Romney’s suggestion that manufacturers were selling a flavor called ‘Unicorn Poop’ … https://t.co/IRfl7d8dSq pic.twitter.com/WdaYRPYx1G
— InterNewsCast (@internewscast) November 23, 2019
CNBC summarized the issue of vaping and the clearly divided parties in the meeting who were battling for the president’s favor:
The meeting displayed sharp divides on whether e-cigarettes are one of the best or worst developments in public health. Some argue e-cigarettes can help adult smokers. Others say the products are merely hooking a new generation on nicotine after years of successfully convincing kids not to smoke cigarettes.
Flavors are at the heart of the divide. Proponents say flavors help adults transition from cigarettes. Opponents say they attract kids and mask the harms of e-cigarettes. Those divisions came to a head with multiple shouting matches breaking out throughout the meeting.
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