More Kids Died in ICE Custody Than From Vaping, Ex-GOP Chairman Says As Trump Plans E-Cigarettes Ban

As the Trump administration prepares a ban on flavored e-cigarettes following at least six deaths from lung diseases linked to vaping, critics are hitting back by pointing out that more people have died in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Trump's watch.

"More children have died in ICE custody [than] from vaping.. just saying," tweeted former Florida Republican Party chairman Al Cardenas.

Cardenas, a lawyer and senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs, later retweeted a story stating that a Mexican man in ICE custody in Illinois since last week died on Tuesday, marking the eighth death in the federal agency's custody this year.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May confirmed the death of a 10-year-old Guatemalan girl, bringing the number of known migrant children deaths to six within eight months.

In June, a Justice Department lawyer told judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that ICE was not necessarily obligated to provide soap, toothbrushes or blankets to detained children.

Cardenas's tweets illustrated the Trump administration's seeming greater concern with vaping, the safety of which has yet to be thoroughly reviewed, than with its treatment of migrant children and families.

On Wednesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will issue a guidance banning non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes within 30 days. A recent increase in underage vaping is among the reasons for the ban, pending an FDA examination of the health effects, Azar said.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

"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," Azar stated. "We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth."

E-cigarette manufacturers, including the popular brand Juul, will have to submit formal applications for approval to once again sell their flavors.

Vaping Kids Deaths ICE
A woman exhales vapor at Vape Jam 2019 at ExCel on April 12, 2019, in London, England. The Trump administration faced backlash Wednesday for doing more to combat youth vaping than to keep migrants in its custody alive. John Keeble/Getty

First Lady Melania Trump, whose Be Best initiative aims to help children, sounded the alarm about the dangers of vaping Monday.

"I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children," she tweeted, echoing Azar's language, "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."

On Wednesday, the first lady shared an infographic showing youth use of e-cigarettes continuing to climb, while their use of traditional cigarettes declined.

"Data shows a high usage of flavored e-cigarettes among our youth. It's our responsibility as parents to understand the dangers that come from vaping," she tweeted. "Our Administration supports the removal of flavored e-cigarettes from stores until they're approved by @US_FDA. #BeBest"

Neither the first lady nor her husband President Donald Trump have taken measures to curb the number of deaths in ICE custody, a matter they have power to directly address. Instead, the Trump administration has boosted resources for migrant detention.

In August, the Trump administration transferred $116 million from agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to ICE to pay for more detention beds and transportation. ICE had enough funding to detain about 42,000 people on average, but its average daily population is expected to reach 50,000 this month.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek on Thursday.

More Kids Died in ICE Custody Than From Vaping, Ex-GOP Chairman Says As Trump Plans E-Cigarettes Ban | News