HomeWashington Letter2019 ▶ White House Sends Mixed Signals on E-Cigarette Rules
White House Sends Mixed Signals on E-Cigarette Rules

The White House continues to send mixed signals on the timing and substance of its promised action on e-cigarette regulation. In September, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Acting FDA Commissioner Sharpless announced the President’s intention to issue final policy to “clear the market” of flavored e-cigarette and vape products. During the September announcement, HHS officials were explicit that the ban would include mint and menthol flavored products. However, since that announcement, the Administration has sent many signals that it is reconsidering its position. In early November, press reported that the White House had decided to remove all flavors from the market — except menthol. However, informal White House spokesperson Kelly Anne Conway has suggested that FDA does not have authority to regulate vape shops.  

A formal proposal to address e-cigarettes and vape products was sent from FDA to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Oct. 25 and internal review of the rule was completed on Nov. 4 — an unusually fast review period for OMB to consider such a major regulation. The accelerated review forced OMB to cancel many November meetings it had scheduled to seek input from various stakeholders, including a meeting with the American Thoracic Society and other medical groups that were scheduled on Nov. 4. However, Administration officials are now talking about reaching the right “balance” between protecting kids and preserving jobs and adult access to alternative tobacco products.

In the face of the Administration’s apparent hesitation, Congress has begun to act. This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation to raise federal purchase age for tobacco products to 21, ban all flavored tobacco products and restrict tobacco sales to face-to-face sales only.

The ATS will continue to urge the White House to honor its promise to take swift action to protect our nation’s youth from nicotine addiction by removing all flavored e-cigarette and vape products from the and require products to undergo FDA pre-market review.

Last Reviewed: November 2019