Just two months ago, President Donald Trump responded to the growing health crisis fueled by e-cigarette use, particularly among teens, by calling for a ban on flavored vaping products. Six weeks later, however, Trump indicated—without giving his reasoning—a softening in his stance on e-cigarettes. Now, just over two months after his initial statement, the initiative to ban flavored products favored by teens appears to have been completely snuffed out. Why? “As he had done so many times before,” the Washington Post reports, “Trump reversed course—this time on a plan to address a major public health problem because of worries that apoplectic vape shop owners and their customers might hurt his reelection prospects.”
There are differing opinions on the usefulness of the flavored vape ban in combating vaping-related illness, but what isn’t ambiguous is the president’s fecklessness. After Trump came out in favor of a ban, Juul, the biggest e-cigarette maker, said it would pull its flavored products from the shelves, would stop its marketing campaign accused of targeting minors, and would refrain from lobbying against the ban. Since there is quite literally nothing that binds Donald Trump to any thought or belief or course of action other than his own immediate self-interest, it makes sense that he twists and turns with the moment and is ultimately bowled over by whoever gets to him last.
And whether Juul did its own lobbying or not, the lobbying certainly happened. “Allies working for the vaping industry have told Mr. Trump of battleground state polling of his own voters that showed the issue costing him support,” according to the New York Times. “One such poll was commissioned by John McLaughlin, one of the Trump campaign pollsters, for the Vapor Technology Association. The poll, which surveyed battleground state voters who vape, showed negative results for Mr. Trump if he went ahead with a ban, and was passed around to a number of people in Mr. Trump’s circle, including Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, and senior White House officials.”
Shortly after, Trump decided against signing the one-page “decision memo,” canceling the administration’s rollout of an announcement, before coming out and saying that he didn’t want to go through with the ban that he said was really his wife and daughter’s idea anyway. The ban, which would have cleared candy-, fruit-, and mint-flavored e-cigarettes used by some 5 million American teenagers off the shelves in 30 days, had already been vetted and cleared by federal regulators at that point. After the reversal, three administration officials told the Times, “Trump was now upset with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who had taken the lead in rolling out the plan.”
On Veterans Day, Trump took to Twitter in between anti-impeachment screeds to announce, essentially, he now wanted to “study” the issue more. “Will be meeting with representatives of the Vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma,” Trump tweeted. “Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!”