Tanks exempted from ban

    Open tank systems may be exempted from a U.S. ban on e-cigarette flavors expected to be announced this week. According to press reports, the Trump administration plans to ban all e-cigarette flavors except menthol and tobacco, but the restrictions won’t apply to the vaping devices that allow users to custom-mix flavors.

    “We have to protect our families,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday. “At the same time it’s a big industry, we want to protect the industry.”

    Tank systems are unpopular among teenagers and children, who tend to prefer vaporizers with prefilled cartridges, such as those made by Juul Labs.

    The policy is seen as a compromise between Trump administration officials who want to address a rise in teen vaping and those concerned about the impact on small businesses and the possible political fallout for President Trump. Polls commissioned by the vapor industry have shown an outright ban would be unpopular in key states for the 2020 election.

    Tobacco and vapor companies have lobbied lawmakers and the White House against banning flavors, including menthol. They have argued that adult smokers need e-cigarette options to help them switch from cigarettes. The companies also say that a full flavor ban would put thousands of vapor shops out of business.

    A Reynolds spokeswoman Tuesday called the FDA’s revised plan “a positive step as it sets a level playing field for the entire U.S. industry.”

    Despite the apparent compromise, the ban would still deal a blow to an industry with an estimated annual revenue of $9 billion. The sweet and fruity flavors that would be banned under the new policy represent about 80 percent of 2019 retail store e-cigarette sales in 2019, according to analysts.

    Nonetheless, health groups lamented that the new policy breaks the administration’s promise to eliminate flavored e-cigarettes.

    “By leaving menthol flavored e-cigarettes widely available and completely exempting liquid flavored products, this policy will not stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

    Stanton A. Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education at the University of California in San Francisco, described the new policy  as “a complete capitulation” to industry.

    The debate over a flavor ban was set off by two public health crises: soaring rates of youth vaping that experts feared was getting a new generation addicted to nicotine and the recent spate of severe lung injuries largely related to vaping THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. More than 2,500 people have been hospitalized since mid-August, and more than 54 people have died.