In an effort to curb teen vaping, President Trump on Wednesday said his administration is looking to ban all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters at the White House that officials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will create guidelines on the ban, a process that could take months.
“The Trump administration is making it clear that we intend 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,” Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
In March, the FDA issued a proposal to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The restrictions, which have not been finalized, would affect sweet and fruity flavors, but not mint and menthol, which are also said to attract teens.
The proposed ban comes as cases of vaping-related lung illnesses have surged in recent weeks. Health officials recently said there are now more than 450 possible cases across 33 states. At least six people have died; the most recent death was reported in Kansas.
No single device, ingredient or additive has been identified at this time, though New York health officials are probing vitamin E acetate as a potential cause of some of the illnesses.
Preceding the Trump administration's announcement, first lady Melania Trump joined a chorus of officials voicing concern over the rampant use of e-cigarette products among the nation’s youth when she posted a tweet on Monday calling for more prevention and protection against nicotine addiction.
“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children,” she wrote. “We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
The tweet ended with a mention of the Department of Health and Human Services, and quickly gained thousands of likes and retweets. Her call for action comes just days after health officials urged people to stop vaping until they can figure out why hundreds have been diagnosed with serious lung illnesses.
E-cigarettes do have the potential to help adult and non-pregnant women quit smoking, but they are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency notes that scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking, and that additional research is needed to understand long-term health effects.
A recent study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers, for instance, found there are damaging effects on an e-cigarette user’s blood vessels after just one use.
Fox News' Alexandria Hein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.