STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump's administration is moving to ban flavored e-cigarettes. It's an effort to combat teen addiction.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a problem that nobody really thought about too much a few years ago and it's called vaping - especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children. And they're coming home and they're saying, Mom, I want to vape. And the parents don't know too much about it. And nobody knows too much about it. But they do know it's causing a lot of problems.
INSKEEP: And the administration means to follow up with regulation. Patrice Harris is with us now. She is president of the American Medical Association. Good morning.
PATRICE HARRIS: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What do you make of this move?
HARRIS: Well, the AMA has long called on the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, particularly banning flavors and marketing practices that enhance the appeal of e-cigarette products to youth. So we're pleased to see the administration taking steps toward removing these flavored products from the market. And we're very eager to see the plan that they've committed to producing over the next couple of weeks.
INSKEEP: So you feel this is a positive move, even though, we should stress, they're not banning vaping. They're not banning e-cigarettes. They're just banning the flavors.
HARRIS: Well, this is a positive move in the right direction. E-cigarette products are not currently regulated by the FDA. And companies are really able to market these products in a way that entices youth. And the number of youth that have been using these products, particularly the flavored ones, has increased greatly over the last several years. So we believe that the regulation of these products needs to be expedited. And we believe it's a step in the right direction.
INSKEEP: What else needs to happen in order to ensure that people who are underage are not getting hooked on this?
HARRIS: Well, prevention is the key. And so we need to use all of our resources. Certainly physicians are ready to talk with our patients, talk with our teenagers, our moms, our dads about the dangers of nicotine, the unknown dangers of these other vaping products - and that includes what's in the devices. And so we will begin and continue to have conversations with our patients. But certainly all of us need to continue to raise the awareness about the dangers, both unknown and known, of these products.
INSKEEP: I'm glad you mentioned unknown dangers because we've just been learning in recent days - haven't we? - that there have been cases of respiratory illnesses involving people who vape even though it's not entirely clear what the link is between one thing and the other. What is the state of knowledge about the safety of this?
HARRIS: Well, unfortunately, we just don't know. Health officials are investigating at this very moment. There have been a number of products and devices that have been implicated. But we just don't know. And so that's why it's very important. And that's why the AMA recommended that everyone avoid e-cigarettes at this time while the investigations are occurring.
INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You're saying everyone - even someone who is trying to quit traditional smoking - might be wise to avoid this?
HARRIS: Well, that was our recommendation until we know the specific causes of these lung illnesses. As you mentioned, there have been, I believe, six deaths at the time now. And we do know that there are some products that are FDA-regulated and approved for smoking cessation. And so we encourage our patients to talk with their physicians about these products that are FDA-regulated for tobacco and smoking cessation.
INSKEEP: So there might be exceptions for an individual, but your general recommendation is stay away?
INSKEEP: Dr. Harris, thanks so much, really appreciate it.
HARRIS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Dr. Patrice Harris is president of the American Medical Association. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.