When President Trump announced his support last September for a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, he said he was doing it to help the teens, who are vaping at alarming rates, even as a mysterious vaping-related lung illness continues to spread. “We can’t have our kids be so affected,” Trump said at the time.
But in the two months since the announcement, the Trump administration has not moved forward with its vape ban, and according to multiple reports, it doesn’t intend to. The reason: Trump came to see that kids don’t vote, but vapers do.
“We Vape! We Vote!” has become the rallying cry for vapers who oppose the proposed White House plan, which would have seen the Food and Drug Administration ban all flavored e-cigarettes, except for tobacco-flavored ones. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in September that the move was meant 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.”
Vapers were distressed, but they weren’t lazy. Less than two weeks after Trump’s announcement of the coming vape ban, it seemed on shaky ground. Trump’s allies began warning him that it could cost him valuable votes in swing states, and vapers began organizing. They called the White House, held protests, and vowed to become single-issue voters determined to protect their right to vape.
Some also warned that the flavor ban would be a job killer in a growing industry. On November 4, the Washington Post reports, Trump was finally swayed by the pro-vape arguments:
Officials said the blowback to Trump’s vow to ban most flavored e-cigarettes had rattled him. In an aggressive social-media campaign — #IVapeIVote — advocates claimed the ban would shut down thousands of shops, eliminating jobs and sending vapers back to cigarettes. The president saw protesters at events and read critical articles. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, privately warned the ban could hurt him in battleground states, said a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
A policy that was ostensibly born out of public-health concerns appears to have been scrapped for political ones. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Reports suggest Trump was never really excited about the vape ban anyway. He moved on it because of support from Ivanka Trump and the First Lady, who Trump noted in September, “feels very strongly about it” because “she’s got a son.”
Kellyanne Conway, the New York Times reports, is also among the supporters of the vape ban because she believes it’s a mistake to assume “that suburban moms who care deeply about a public-health crisis for teenagers have deserted Mr. Trump for good.” On the other side of the debate are figures such as Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader who has emerged as a vocal vaper, and Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager. They believe that if Trump wants a second term, he needs the vapers and he needs their votes.