President Donald Trump and anti-Trump Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah found some common ground Friday during a White House meeting called by Trump as part of efforts to address youth addiction to nicotine through vaping.
Trump used the session to ask industry representatives, public health experts and activists opposed to vaping how they felt the federal government should act to limit the access of underage teens to e-cigarettes, according to a Fox News video.
Trump is still considering the impact of a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes, something that he said in September he said he favored, according to a White House media pool report.
While the president has not made a decision yet, just the fact that Trump and Romney were discussing a topic of common interest represented a rare moment of common ground between the two Republicans, who are much more often publicly at odds with each other.
Trump asked whether banning flavored vaping products in the U.S. could just open the door to contraband products from abroad, which could present a problem to consumer safety.
“Isn’t that going to be — yeah. Isn’t that going to be just sold, you know, illegally, or somebody is going to open up a shop in China and ship it in with flavors and you don’t know what standard you’re getting? Isn’t that a problem?” Trump said.
When he was told that counterfeit products are already flooding the American market, usually made in China, he asked if that wasn’t where the real safety issue is.
Despite that, Trump was urged to act against flavored e-cigarettes by Meredith Berkman, who co-founded Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes.
“Your first instinct on solving this problem of the youth vaping epidemic we, and I think many people in this room, believe is the right one — and that is ridding the market of all of these flavors, including menthol flavor and mint flavor, because it’s the flavors that have hooked the kids and that kept the kids from perceiving harm in these products, and the presence of nicotine,” she said, according to a White House transcript of the session.
“This addiction is severe addiction. This is enormous amounts of nicotine — so much more than in combustible cigarettes. And parents are terrified. We hear this every day from people all across the country, all walks of life — in cities, in suburbs, in the country. And they feel like they’ve lost their kids. Straight-‘A’ students are flunking out of school. Athletes — star athletes can’t run a mile. And what I hear over and over — what we hear all the time is, ‘I don’t recognize my child.’ The bouts of anger, the pain — parents are in pain. And we need you,” she said.
“We want to take care of our kids. We’ve got to take care of our kids,” Trump said.
During the session, Romney pushed back vigorously against a claim from Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association trade group, that a flavor ban would result in the closure of 13,000 small businesses and the loss of 151,000 jobs.
“I’ve looked at the data. And the data says there are approximately 10,000 vaping shops. All right? So, you’ve got 10,000 shops. Four employees — all right? Four employees per. All right? Four full-time -equivalent employees per. That’s 40,000 employees,” Romney said, according to the transcript.
Abboud sought to say a flavor ban would also hurt manufacturers and distributors.
“The convenience stores — they sell a lot of products. They’re not going to go out of business because they don’t have flavors. All right. So it’s the vaping shops,” he said, according to the transcript. “They’re not all going to go out business because they can’t sell flavors. They’re not all going to go out of business. Some may. That would be unfortunate, but some may.”
Romney said that in a choice between vaping shops and children, the children should win.
“We’ve got almost 6 million kids addicted to nicotine. And they’re getting addicted to nicotine because of flavors. Sixty-six percent of the kids addicted to these products are saying they didn’t even know it had nicotine in it. They thought it was just a candy-type product. It’s a — it’s the flavor that’s drawing the kids in. It’s a health emergency,” he said.
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