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FDA To Prohibit Most Flavored E-Cigarettes Except For Tobacco, Menthol

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Food and Drug Administration will soon ban the sale of many flavors of e-cigarettes. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that some flavors were popular with teenagers, and so more teenagers were smoking e-cigarettes. President Trump says this ban is a win for everyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to protect our families. We're going to protect our children. And we're going to protect the industry.

KING: But there's a major carve-out. Tobacco and menthol will be exempt from the ban. Jennifer Maloney of The Wall Street Journal was one of the reporters who broke this story, and she's with me now. Hey, Jennifer. Happy new year.

JENNIFER MALONEY: Happy new year. Good morning.

KING: So what are the flavors that the FDA plans to ban?

MALONEY: The FDA plans to ban all e-cigarette pods other than those formulated to taste like tobacco or menthol.

KING: Yes, I've got that, but I'm curious because I know that the report in JAMA, in the American Medical Association, said that certain flavors were popular with teenagers, and it made me very curious. I'm not an e-cigarette smoker myself, not that familiar with the culture. What are the flavors that teenagers like so much?

MALONEY: They use fruit flavors and mint. So what we know is that they like kind of the sweet, fruity things, like mango. You know, the most popular ones seem to be the fruity ones and, more recently in the past year, the minty ones. There was a difference, though, between the mint flavor and the menthol flavor, which is one of the reasons why the FDA decided to leave menthol on the market and take mint off.

KING: When does this happen? When does this take effect?

MALONEY: It's unclear, but it could take effect as soon as 30 days after the announcement is made. And the announcement could be made as early as Friday.

KING: As early as Friday. In your reporting, you describe this move as a compromise. Can you explain what the compromise was exactly?

MALONEY: Sure. So there are administration officials who have been wanting to do something to address the rise in underage vaping...

KING: Including President Trump, right?

MALONEY: ...Including President Trump, who said that his wife, Melania, was concerned about it, including potentially their own son being affected, and others in his age group, by the popularity of e-cigarettes. So there are many in the administration who have been wanting to do something to address this uptick in teen use.

However, there were others in the White House who were concerned that a blanket ban on e-cigarettes or on most e-cigarettes could have political repercussions on the president in an election year, that it could affect small businesses. The vape shop owners who sell both e-cigarettes that the kids tend to use - the ones where you click in a pod - but also other systems that are sort of more DIY, mix your own flavors that the adults tend to prefer - those vape shop owners kind of rose up in a chorus to oppose a proposed blanket ban on vaping products.

KING: Hence the compromise, OK.

MALONEY: So that's the compromise. The compromise here is that the open tank systems that are generally sold in the vape shops can continue to be available in many flavors, but the pod-based systems that are popular among kids will be limited in terms of flavors.

KING: OK, and hopefully preventing some of the use among teenagers that we've been seeing. Jennifer Maloney of The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

MALONEY: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.