Until recently, President Donald Trump was, rightly, championing a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, products clearly meant to pull kids into vaping. But as seems to so often happen when Trump is on the verge of doing something right — whether on gun control, health care, infrastructure or other issues — he’s had second thoughts. He now reportedly opposes the vaping ban for fear it will anger his base, thus trading off kids’ health for votes next year.
While vaping apparently doesn’t pose the cancer risks that cigarettes do, it delivers highly addictive nicotine, which can cause hypertension. Other health effects aren’t yet fully understood, including a mysterious lung ailment that has caused dozens of deaths.
Nonetheless, the industry has aggressively lured young new customers with vaping products in flavors like melon, “Gummi Bear” and cotton candy — flavors clearly intended to appeal to kids.
So it made sense when Trump announced in September the administration would ban most flavored e-cigarettes. “We can’t have our kids so affected,” Trump said then, referencing encouragement from First Lady Melania Trump. “She feels very strongly about it.”
But The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump’s wife and other health advocates were overruled by political advisers who feared vaping restrictions would anger Trump’s base. By last week, he had canceled the new restrictions and tweeted that he would be “meeting with representatives of the vaping industry … to come up with an acceptable solution” to the “dilemma.”
That announcement took White House officials by surprise, but that’s typical for this president. Consider:
• Last December, he tweet-announced the pullout of troops from Syria without consulting the Pentagon — prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — then changed his mind, then later changed it again and instituted the disastrous pullout.
• After back-to-back mass shootings last summer, Trump embraced calls for universal background checks for gun sales, before the National Rifle Association nudged him to reverse himself.
• When Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump moved to sabotage it through executive action while vowing a “great” replacement. The sabotage continues, but the replacement is nowhere in sight, opening the real possibility that millions of Americans with preexisting medical conditions will be thrown off their coverage.
• The “builder-president” vowed to launch a $1 trillion rebuilding program for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, hands-down his best campaign promise. Alas, it turns out he and his GOP allies were more interested in spending that money on a tax giveaway to the wealthy.
These are the dangers of a president with few core convictions beyond a towering ego. Thanks to Trump’s inability to define a coherent policy principle and stick to it, America’s youth could continue to face addiction and health dangers from flavored vaping products.