It was just two months ago when Donald Trump and his team suggested it was quite serious about banning the sale of non-tobacco-flavored electronic cigarettes. The president told reporters that vaping is "causing a lot of problems, and we're going to have to do something about it." Pointing to vaping-related deaths, the Republican added that he would impose "very strong rules and regulations."
At the time, Trump acknowledged that vaping "has become a very big business," but he said public welfare had to take precedence over corporate bottom lines. "[W]e can't allow people to get sick, and we can't have our youth be so affected," he said, adding, "People are dying with vaping."
A month later, Trump's re-election campaign manager, Brad Parscale, reportedly started warning the president that his position on vaping was a political loser that the White House should abandon. And now, a month after that, it appears the president is no longer interested in the commitments he made two months ago. The Washington Post reported:
Everything seemed ready to go: President Trump's ban on most flavored e-cigarettes had been cleared by federal regulators. Officials were poised to announce they would order candy, fruit and mint flavors off the market within 30 days — a step the president had promised almost two months earlier to quell a youth vaping epidemic that had ensnared 5 million teenagers.
One last thing was needed: Trump's sign-off. But on Nov. 4, the night before a planned morning news conference, the president balked.
The New York Times added that Trump is now resisting "moving forward with any action on vaping," and "even a watered-down ban on flavored e-cigarettes that exempted menthol, which was widely expected, appears to have been set aside," at least for now.
The official line, apparently, is that the president is principally concerned with possible job losses in the industry. Or put another way, Trump is prioritizing corporate concerns, which is the one thing he said two months ago he would not do.
And while public-health advocates will no doubt find the White House shift appalling, for good reason, I'm also struck by the familiarity of the circumstances.