US mulls ban on flavoured e-cigarettes after vaping-linked fatalities

Washington: The Trump administration said that it plans to bar the sale of non-tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes in the United States following six deaths linked to vaping.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of drafting new regulations to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told journalists at the White House on Wednesday, Efe news reported.

Once the rules are published, the industry and vendors will have 30 days to comply, the secretary said during a meeting in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump and the acting commissioner of the FDA, Ned Sharpless.

"We can't allow people to get sick and we can't have our youth be so affected," Trump said. "People are dying from vaping, so we're looking at it very closely."

First lady Melania Trump spoke out about the dangers of vaping earlier this week.

"That's how the first lady got involved. She's got a son, together, that is a beautiful young man and she feels very, very strongly about it," the president said, referring to the Trumps' 13-year-old son, Barron.

"She's seen it. We're both reading it, a lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping so we're looking at it very, very closely," the president said.

The FDA has yet to regulate e-cigarettes and has regarded the tobacco-flavoured versions as useful in helping adult smokers move away from conventional cigarettes.

The move announced by Azar will entail a provisional ban on all sales of flavoured e-cigarettes, though the devices could return to the market if they secure FDA approval.

"Kids are getting access to these products despite our best efforts at enforcement," Azar said. "They've been going at it so we simply have to remove these attractive flavoured products from the marketplace until they've secured FDA approval if they can."

At least six deaths are blamed on respiratory illnesses related to vaping and health authorities have documented a total of 450 cases involving e-cigarettes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has issued a health warning against vaping.

Last week, Michigan became the first state to issue an order aimed at ending the sale of all non-tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes within its borders.

Citing a CDC survey of teenagers, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that more than 25 per cent of high school students used e-cigarettes within the last month. The "overwhelming majority" of those users said that they vaped fruit and menthol or mint flavours.

Azar said Wednesday that his department will be alert to any increase in use of tobacco flavoured e-cigarettes by minors.

"If we find that children start surging into tobacco flavoured e-cigarettes or if we find marketing practices that target children and try to attract them into tobacco flavoured e-cigarettes, we will engage in enforcement actions there also," the secretary said.

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