A Timeline of Trump Administration Actions on Vaping as Flavors Ban Stalls

President Donald Trump is expected to host a meeting with vaping industry executives and public health officials Friday while he sits on a ban of flavored e-cigarettes that was first announced months earlier.

On Wednesday, a White House spokesperson said the policy was delayed but has not been abandoned. In the meantime, Trump continues to weigh "all sides" of the vaping epidemic, which has affected more than 5 million U.S. youths.

Nearly 2,300 e-cigarette users have reported lung injuries that physicians say resemble chemical burns, and 47 deaths have been confirmed. Federal health officials first became aware of the epidemic in the summer of 2018, when vaping was spiking among high school and middle school students.

Here's a timeline on the administration's meandering policy efforts to curb youth e-cigarette use in the past year.

Trump Still Pondering Vaping Flavors Ban
President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a Cabinet meeting on November 19. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

November 15, 2018: The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey helped spur health officials into action. The results indicated a "dramatic" surge in youth vaping, by more than 20 percent, and prompted an overall rise in tobacco product usage, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At the time, Alex Alazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Scott Gottlieb, then-commissioner of the FDA, said vaping availability would not come at the expense of an entire generation of kids becoming addicted to nicotine. They announced several steps, past and present, to get youth vaping under control.

August 1, 2019: The CDC launched a multistate investigation as the first vaping-related illnesses were reported, with at least two deaths resulting. Soon thereafter, it warned people not to vape in general or to use e-cigarette products purchased from street vendors.

September 11, 2019: Azar announced that the Trump administration would ban flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, in an effort to slow youth vaping. At the time, he said the FDA would ready its rules for the ban within 30 days. (No such rules have been released.)

September 19, 2019: Just a week after announcing the initial ban idea, Trump abruptly canceled meetings with conservative lawmakers concerned that the administration was moving too quickly to regulate a popular product that provided jobs for many voters in swing states, Bloomberg News first reported.

November 6, 2019: The FDA and CDC released the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, which revealed that 5 million children used e-cigarettes in 2019, up from 3.6 million the year before despite HHS prevention efforts.

That same day, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the White House doesn't have the authority to regulate vape shops, in one of the first public indications that the administration was walking back its initial ban, according to Bloomberg. At the same time, she indicated the new rules would be released "soon." (They were not.)

November 17, 2019: The Washington Post first reported that Trump canceled the ban just hours before it was scheduled to be announced on November 5, fearing blowback.

November 20, 2019: Trump's pick to head the FDA was bombarded with questions related to youth vaping during his confirmation hearing before the Senate. Republican and Democratic lawmakers wanted to know whether Stephen Hahn would push forward with the ban with or without Trump's approval. He largely dodged those questions, promising a patient-centered approach to FDA decisions on the matter.

Also on Wednesday, CNN first reported that the White House would host a closed-door meeting with vaping industry executives and public health advocates, amid reports that Trump was swayed by vaping businesses to not follow through with the flavors ban because of the impact on jobs.

"The policymaking process is not stalled—it continues to move forward," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement.

November 21, 2019: The CDC reported nearly 2,300 vaping-related illnesses and 47 deaths, almost doubling from previous weeks' reports. Researchers identified a link between the cases and use of THC, the active component in cannabis, as well as the presence of vitamin E, an additive in some THC-containing products.