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Health Experts: Trump Ban On Flavored E-Cigarettes Would Have Little Impact

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Trump administration says it wants to ban flavored vaping products in an effort to stop the rise of e-cigarette use among young people. Some critics say a ban won't stop kids from vaping. But according to Zeninjor Enwemeka from member station WBUR, some young people say the ban is a good idea.

ZENINJOR ENWEMEKA, BYLINE: Hundreds of recent cases of lung illnesses and even some deaths related to vaping across the country were enough to get Lucas Barbiero to think twice about his e-cigarette. He's a student at Suffolk University in Boston.

LUCAS BARBIERO: After, like, I saw the reports and stuff about vaping, I was like, you know, I'm, like, 22 years old. I, you know, I have a whole life ahead of me, so I just threw it away.

ENWEMEKA: Barbiero says he tossed his e-cigarette after hearing that some of those illnesses were impacting people younger than him. And so he says it's a good idea to ban flavored vaping products to make them less attractive to children.

JACK KAYYEM: I think if they keep it to, like, a cigarette flavor, then you won't really see kids hitting it because that's pretty gross. It's an acquired taste.

ENWEMEKA: It's a taste 23-year-old Jack Kayyem has acquired. The recent college grad is also concerned about teens vaping, which is sometimes called Juuling, after one brand of e-cigarettes.

KAYYEM: There's, like, middle schoolers Juuling these days, so that's ridiculous.

ENWEMEKA: Kayyem says he can see why it may appeal to younger people.

KAYYEM: I use, like, the mint one, so I don't know. I don't think kids should be using this at all. So the crazy, like, unicorn crazy fruity flavors - I'm not about that.

ENWEMEKA: So while a ban probably won't stop Kayyem, he thinks it could deter teens. Boston University student Raine Calhoun (ph) is skeptical about the ban altogether. She says she doesn't think e-cigarette companies will support a ban because of...

RAINE CALHOUN: Corporate greed. I don't think that they'd want to give up a big market like that.

KAYYEM: E-cigarette maker Juul has spent almost $2 million lobbying officials the first half of this year. The company is a popular brand among teens, so popular that college student Nathan Faynzilberg worries that a ban on flavored vaping products will just push people to the black market.

NATHAN FAYNZILBERG: There's definitely other ways that youth start getting these products without getting them, legally. They definitely get him through adults and stores where they won't take into account their age, and they will sell it to them.

ENWEMEKA: And a black market could create even more health dangers, according to Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health.

MICHAEL SIEGEL: Well, I think this is really bad public policy. They're not going to stop vaping. They're just going to switch what they vape.

ENWEMEKA: Siegel says vaping products should be treated more like alcohol, restricted to stores only open to those over 21. Some organizations support the proposed flavor ban. Erika Sward is with the American Lung Association. She says flavored e-cigarettes are being used to addict a generation of kids.

ERIKA SWARD: These products are very bad for kids, but we also know that they're bad for adults. Inhaling chemicals into your lungs is very dangerous.

ENWEMEKA: But Sward says more needs to be done, such as prohibiting online sales of tobacco products and taxing e-cigarettes like tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to finalize its proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the coming weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Zeninjor Enwemeka in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.