Faced with a troubling outbreak of a mysterious vaping-related illness and the skyrocketing use of electronic cigarettes among teens, President Trump announced in September that the Food and Drug Administration would pull flavored electronic-cigarettes from the market, possibly within weeks.

He promised quick action, and he was right to do so. At that point, six people had died from the new illness, and hundreds more had been hospitalized with severe lung damage. Since then, 44 people have died and more than 2,000 people have been sickened.

Trump’s plan was a good one (and a rare smart move on public health policy from an administration better known for dismantling environmental protections). Never mind that it wasn’t a perfect answer to the current crisis. Even then, the vaping illness was suspected to be primarily caused by use of black market vaping devices modified for cannabis or THC and containing vitamin E oil. (Health officials are now pretty sure that’s what’s causing the illness.)

But a ban on flavored electronic-cigarettes is still good public health policy. Vaping use among minors has grown precipitously in recent years — doubling in just the last two years to about a quarter of all high school seniors. Nearly 80% of teens who vape said they did so because of the flavors. And even if they aren’t using the aftermarket products associated with the vaping illness, the high levels of nicotine in electronic cigarettes hook users quickly, and nicotine use presents its own health risks.

According to The Washington Post, the FDA was set to announce on Nov. 5 that it would order flavored electronic cigarettes to be banned for sale within 30 days. But Trump decided not to sign the “decision memo” out of concern that it might lead to job losses that could be used against him during his reelection campaign.

This is just another example of Trump’s tendency to say one thing and then do another. Such was the case when Trump said he would support sensible gun control (such as closing loopholes on background checks) after a particularly bad run of mass shootings, but then flip-flopped after strong words from the National Rifle Association.

It seems the country is led by a man so concerned with hanging on to his job that he would throw over an entire generation of children in the process.

Editorial by the Los Angeles Times

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