Trump administration moves to ban all flavored e-cigarettes in response to vaping epidemic

Several confirmed deaths and numerous reported cases of an unknown vaping-related illness have led the Trump administration cracking down on flavored e-cigarettes.
As vaping increases among teenagers and young adults, the national government has begun considering planning legislation to ban e-cigarette products. Maneater Photo Archive

In 2019, vaping has seen another sharp increase amongst teenagers and young adults throughout the US despite mounting concerns about the safety of the products and their potential to cause a mysterious lung illness.

Record increases in young people’s use of e-cigarettes have been seen over the past few years with the CDC now estimating that around one in four high school students vape, up around 7% from last year. Collectively, this amounts to a new generation being potentially hooked on nicotine after decades-long strides by health officials to bring down tobacco use.

Dr. Jenna Wintemberg, an assistant teaching professor in the School of Health Professions at MU, finds this alarming.

“We in public health had made tremendous progress in bringing down cigarette smoking rates, and now actually there is a very serious concern that smoking rates are going to go back up,” Wintemberg said. “Young people who never would have touched a cigarette before are now becoming addicted to nicotine through vape products.”

As this new generation is becoming hooked on nicotine, a mysterious vaping-related lung illness claimed its eighth victim. Last week, a Missouri man in his mid-40s from St. Louis died in the hospital due to acute respiratory distress syndrome after only beginning to vape regularly in May.

Across the country, roughly 530 cases of vaping related lung injuries have been reported to the Center for Disease Control in what’s been seen as a nation-wide vaping epidemic.

This recent health crisis seems to be especially impacting young people as the majority of the cases reported so far have involved those aged 34 or younger. To solve it, the Trump administration is now calling for a complete ban on all flavored e-cigarettes.

Since 2018, the White House has faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, public health officials, educators and parents to curb adolescent and under-age vaping. Juul, a leading e-cigarette company founded in 2015, also faced severe scrutiny last year for its marketing appeal toward younger demographics.

As a result, the recent health crisis associated with vaping is alarming to the public and has prompted Trump, along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II, to begin drafting an executive order banning all flavored e-cigarettes. The executive order aims to prevent young people from using flavored e-juice, which is how adolescents experience nicotine products first hand, in order to avert the unclear lung illnesses from continuing to affect them. However, not all agree.

“The bans on flavored e-cigarettes are not going to solve the problems that have been going on with them,” junior Noah Adams said. “I think it falls more on the retailers and the sellers rather than the companies making the pods but I don’t think that the crackdown will have much of an impact.”

On MU’s campus, it might not have that impact. Despite having been a smoke-free campus since 2013 and a tobacco-free campus since 2018, a significant portion of the student population still continues to use e-cigarettes and other nicotine related products. Even Columbia’s 2014 city ordinance raising the minimum age required to purchase tobacco products to 21 could not completely prevent its use. However, this does not make the potential health risks any less severe.

Currently, the CDC is recommending that anyone concerned with potential health risks to refrain from using any type of e-cigarette or vaping device in the meantime. Additionally, they do not recommend any former smokers to return to using cigarettes, which many have begun to do in fear of the unknown effects of vaping.

Though, research into potential side effects is limited. According to Wintemberg, early laboratory testing is revealing a variety of harmful toxins and carcinogens within the cartridges of vape devices that are associated with lung conditions, like popcorn lung. Certain chemicals, like a synthetic version of THC and vitamin E oils, have been found in a significant portion of the vaping cases reported to the CDC.

Edited by Ben Scott |

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