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President Donald Trump reportedly has reconsidered a plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes, a reversal that was widely portrayed as a triumph of politics over public health. Yet that criticism more aptly describes the proposed ban, which would have sacrificed the interests, and potentially the lives, of current and former smokers in the name of curtailing underage vaping.
There were political arguments on both sides of this debate. Advocates of the flavor ban argued that it would appeal to suburban women concerned about the recent rise in e-cigarette use by teenagers, while opponents warned that it would alienate vapers who were otherwise inclined to support the president, endangering his re-election.
The opponents, bolstered by rallies and polling data suggesting that vapers were highly motivated and apt to vote (or refrain from voting) based on this issue, seem to have prevailed. But they not only had the stronger political argument; they also had the stronger public health argument.
Millions of Americans have quit smoking by switching to vaping, a far less hazardous source of nicotine. Consumer surveys and sales data show they overwhelmingly prefer the products targeted by the proposed ban.
That policy, which was expressly designed to make vaping products less appealing, would have driven some former smokers back to their old habits while deterring current smokers from making a switch that could save their lives. Even The New York Times saw the folly of this approach, warning that it "would almost certainly force people who already use these products, including roughly 11 million adults, to choose between traditional cigarettes (which remain widely available, despite being deadlier than e-cigarettes) and black-market vaping products."
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