Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decisive move to ban flavored vapes, the Trump administration proposed to remove its authority over tobacco products.
In the administration’s budget proposal for the government’s 2021 fiscal year, there’s a small section that would create a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to regulate tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
The proposal said a separate agency would be able to “increase direct accountability and more effectively respond” to tobacco-related issues. The Trump administration also said this would free up the FDA and its commissioner to focus more on food and drug regulation.
This new tobacco agency would also have a Senate-confirmed director, according to the proposal.
It’s important to remember that the budget proposal will undergo many changes as it goes through Congress and is unlikely to pass in its current form. Critics of the proposal, like American Lung Association CEO Harold Wimmer, say a separate tobacco agency may give the tobacco industry more influence on regulations.
Other anti-tobacco groups also expressed concern about the proposal.
The Trump administration has previously flip-flopped on e-cigarette regulation. Last fall, President Trump proposed a outright ban on flavored vape products before walking back on it several weeks later.
The FDA, however, went ahead with the ban on flavored vapes in early January, shortly after commissioner Stephen Hahn was confirmed. That ban went into effect on Feb. 6. Hahn later said the agency was closely monitoring the effect of the ban and would take tougher action if needed.
In fact, the vape industry and teen smokers have already found a loophole in the ban. The ban on flavors other than tobacco and menthol only applies to refillable e-cigarettes and cartridges, like Juul pods. Companies that sell disposable e-cigarettes are not included and are continuing to sell fruity and sweet flavors.
This week, Maryland attempted to close that loophole by banning all flavors of disposable e-cigarettes except for tobacco and menthol.