WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Wednesday it plans to ban the sale of non-tobacco-flavored electronic cigarettes amid a vaping crisis.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
Michigan became the first state to prohibit sales of most flavored e-cigarettes last week in a bold move to curb the underage vaping epidemic. The ban, which will take effect in a few weeks, will cover both online and in-store sales of all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco.
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San Francisco was the first major U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes, in a measure city supervisors passed unanimously in June.
Federal health authorities have reported an outbreak of mysterious illnesses tied to the popular devices.
The number of vaping-related illnesses jumped to at least 450 cases in 33 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cautioned people against using e-cigarettes, especially those bought off the street in a warning Friday.
At least six deaths linked to the vaping-related respiratory illness have been reported.
The administration meeting comes as members of Congress and lawmakers are calling for strong action.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should consider recalling e-cigarettes as it continues to investigate recent deaths and illnesses related to vaping.
“I’m increasingly concerned that a generation of young people has been deceived into thinking e-cigarettes are safe,” he tweeted.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will advance legislation to ban flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
“The rise in vaping-associated illnesses is a frightening public health phenomenon,” Cuomo said on Monday.
First lady Melania Trump also weighed in on the matter in a statement this week.
“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children,” she wrote. “We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
Welker and Jackson reported from Washington, Griffith reported from New York.