The Trump administration is planning to crack down on vaping, especially when it comes to its use among teens.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the administration’s plan to completely remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, save for tobacco-flavored products, on Wednesday from the Oval Office. He noted that about 8 million adults and 5 million children are currently vaping.
Before Azar announced the plan, President Donald Trump highlighted the fact that vaping poses a danger to children, saying that the popularity of e-cigarettes is a “very new and potentially very bad” problem.
The president and Azar were joined by First Lady Melania Trump and the Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Norman Sharpless.
“We want to have parents understand that we’re studying it very carefully,” Trump said. “There have been deaths and there have been a lot of other problems. People think it’s an easy solution to cigarettes, but it’s turned out that it has its own difficulties.”
Azar then said that new data from the National Youth Tobacco survey shows “a continued surging” in e-cigarette use among teens and that young users are specifically drawn to the many flavors currently on the market, like mint and candy.
“With the president’s support, the Food and Drug Administration intends to finalize a guidance document that would commence enforcement to require that all flavors, other than tobacco flavor, would be removed from the market,” Azar said, adding that once the FDA finalizes the guidance, enforcement actions will begin.
Azar suggested that the ban on flavors could be the first step of many to keep children from vaping.
“If we find that children are being attracted to tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, if we find that manufacturers are marketing the tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes to children, or placing them in settings where they get them, we will take enforcement action there also,” he added.
Trump’s announcement comes one day after Kansas health officials confirmed the sixth vaping-related death in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control is investigating more than 450 reported cases of severe lung illness linked to vaping from U.S. residents of all ages, a number that the CDC said on Friday had more than doubled from the prior week.
The CDC is urging Americans to avoid vaping while investigations into the deaths and illnesses proceed.
“While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, incident manager of the CDC’s response to the vaping-related lung injuries. “People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms, for example, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and vomiting — and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns.”
RELATED: How Dangerous Is Vaping? E-Cigarette Users ‘Should Worry’ About Rise in Lung Illnesses, Says Expert
On Wednesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the health organization “strongly supports” the FDA’s plan to “finalize an enforcement policy that will clear non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes from the market.”
“This is an important step in response to the epidemic of e-cigarette use among our Nation’s youth, and will help protect them from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks. Clearing the market of non-tobacco-flavored products is important to reverse this alarming epidemic,” he continued in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Any tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for youth. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. We must do everything we can to reduce the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students.”
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