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Westlake Legal Group > E-Cigarettes

Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes

WASHINGTON — It was a swift and bold reaction to a growing public health crisis affecting teenagers. Seated in the Oval Office in September, President Trump said he was moving to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes as vaping among young people continued to rise.

“We can’t have our kids be so affected,” Mr. Trump said. The first lady, Melania Trump, who rarely involves herself publicly with policy announcements in the White House, was there, too. “She’s got a son,” Mr. Trump noted, referring to their teenager, Barron. “She feels very strongly about it.”

But two months later, under pressure from his political advisers and lobbyists to factor in the potential pushback from his supporters, Mr. Trump has resisted moving forward with any action on vaping, while saying he still wants to study the issue.

Even a watered-down ban on flavored e-cigarettes that exempted menthol, which was widely expected, appears to have been set aside, for now.

On a flight on Nov. 4, while traveling to a political rally in Kentucky, Mr. Trump was swayed by the advisers who warned him of political repercussions to any sweeping restrictions. Reviewing talking points on the ban aboard the plane with advisers, Mr. Trump decided to cancel the administration’s rollout of an announcement, which included a news conference that Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, was planning to hold on the issue the next day. Instead, another meeting was proposed.

The discussion aboard the Nov. 4 flight was first reported by The Washington Post.

White House officials pushing for action were still holding out hope that there would be an announcement of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, with an exemption for menthol, last week.

The proposed ban had gathered significant support this fall, as the crisis over teenage vaping, with year-over-year increases, coincided with a sprawling outbreak of severe lung injuries. While most of the illnesses, now affecting more than 2,000 people and causing more than 40 deaths, have been attributed to vaping THC products, the e-cigarette industry also became the target of criticism for luring minors into using its products.

A lack of federal action prompted several states to try to institute bans on flavored e-cigarettes, spurring the vaping and tobacco industries to mount legal challenges and lobby lawmakers and the White House against regulatory restrictions that would impede adult e-smokers.

Juul Labs, the largest seller of e-cigarettes in the country and the target of several federal investigations, had taken most of its flavors off the market in anticipation of a national flavor ban. The company had said that its mint-flavored pods made up about 70 percent of its sales; menthol was 10 percent; and two tobacco flavors accounted for 20 percent. But many other look-alikes, in flavors like chai and melon, have sprung up to fill the void left by Juul’s actions.

Mr. Trump has since decided to follow the advice of political advisers to stall on the issue and meet with more groups.

On Nov. 11, Mr. Trump tweeted that he would be “meeting with representatives of the vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the vaping and E-cigarette dilemma.”

The announcement on Twitter took West Wing advisers by surprise, and one senior official said no meeting had been scheduled. One adviser who spoke to Mr. Trump recently said the president was simply overwhelmed by other issues, including the televised impeachment hearings that began last week, distracting him from deciding what the administration should do about restricting e-cigarette flavors.

But he is concerned about his chances in 2020, and allies working for the vaping industry have told Mr. Trump of battleground state polling of his own voters that showed the issue costing him support.

One such poll was commissioned by John McLaughlin, one of the Trump campaign pollsters, for the Vapor Technology Association. The poll, which surveyed battleground state voters who vape, showed negative results for Mr. Trump if he went ahead with a ban, and was passed around to a number of people in Mr. Trump’s circle, including Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, and senior White House officials.

Tony Abboud, the executive director of the group that commissioned the poll that has helped influence the president, said they were encouraged by “what appears to be a move in the right direction for adult smokers and their families.”

“Bans don’t work,” he said. “They never have.”

Mr. Trump has also been under an intense lobbying campaign over the past seven weeks, waged by tobacco and vaping companies, along with conservative organizations, like Americans for Tax Reform, which are opposed to regulatory limits that would affect retailers, small businesses and adult consumers of e-cigarettes. Some have promoted enforcing sales restrictions to protect minors, or raising the national age to 21 for sales of all tobacco products.

The trajectory of the flavor ban — from a bold pronouncement of swift action to a fizzle after the political realities of taking such an action emerge — is similar to Mr. Trump’s stance on gun legislation. Months after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, when Mr. Trump said he wanted to pass “very meaningful background checks,” warnings from gun rights advocates and Republican lawmakers about the political fallout that would result from doing that ultimately led to no action on the issue.

Inside the White House, the flavor ban has also become a proxy issue for how his advisers see Mr. Trump’s path to re-election. In one camp are those who believe he should try to win back suburban women, including mothers of teenagers who would presumably worry about their children becoming addicted to nicotine. In the other are those who advise him to assume that voting bloc would not favor him anyway and to focus only on energizing his base.

Mr. Parscale had flagged to Mr. Trump after he first announced his intention to ban most flavored e-cigarettes that it would hurt him with his base. Mr. Parscale and other advisers warned Mr. Trump to slow down, and announce he was going to take time studying the issue, telling him that a ban could depress turnout in critical states.

Those political concerns were not without merit: E-cigarette users have held protests outside the White House and outside Trump rallies that they may have attended under other circumstances. Protesters have also raised concerns about the potential closing of thousands of vape shops, which they said would hurt the economy and cost jobs across the country.

But it is not clear whether pro-vaping activists are one-issue voters.

While some advice to Mr. Trump was grounded in polling, some was based on a gut-level understanding of Trump voters: Taking away the right to smoke or vape would be something akin to taking away firearms.

In the opposing camp is Kellyanne Conway, a top White House adviser and Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, who has been telling colleagues and the president that it is a mistake to assume, as Mr. Parscale and others have done, that suburban moms who care deeply about a public health crisis for teenagers have deserted Mr. Trump for good.

Those advisers, including Mr. Azar, have been pushing the administration to address the issue, as parents and schools as well as public health experts have grown increasingly concerned about the rise in teenage vaping. Mr. Azar had told the president that about more than one-fourth of high school students reported vaping e-cigarettes within the previous 30 days, according to this year’s survey of tobacco use among youths.

Recent Vaping Regulations

Several states have announced e-cigarette bans in response to recent vaping illnesses and deaths. More maps and charts.

Westlake Legal Group regs-335 Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes   Westlake Legal Group regs-335-map Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes

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Westlake Legal Group regs-800 Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes   Westlake Legal Group regs-800-map Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes

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Last September, Mr. Azar said the proposed ban would include mint and menthol because those two flavors appeared to be popular with teenagers, especially once e-cigarette companies responded to criticism of appealing to young people and began pulling fruit and dessert varieties, like mango, from shelves.

But those who had opposed a flavor ban — especially against menthol — found ammunition in the results of a recently released national survey of high school students, which showed that very few preferred menthol. Most said they chose fruit or mint as their favorite flavors of e-cigarettes.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, who at first expressed interest in the ban as a mother of a teenage son, did not respond to a request for comment about whether she was still invested in the issue.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes

WASHINGTON — It was a swift and bold reaction to a growing public health crisis affecting teenagers. Seated in the Oval Office in September, President Trump said he was moving to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes as vaping among young people continued to rise.

“We can’t have our kids be so affected,” Mr. Trump said. The first lady, Melania Trump, who rarely involves herself publicly with policy announcements in the White House, was there, too. “She’s got a son,” Mr. Trump noted, referring to their teenager, Barron. “She feels very strongly about it.”

But two months later, under pressure from his political advisers and lobbyists to factor in the potential pushback from his supporters, Mr. Trump has resisted moving forward with any action on vaping, while saying he still wants to study the issue.

Even a watered-down ban on flavored e-cigarettes that exempted menthol, which was widely expected, appears to have been set aside, for now.

On a flight on Nov. 4, while traveling to a political rally in Kentucky, Mr. Trump was swayed by the advisers who warned him of political repercussions to any sweeping restrictions. Reviewing talking points on the ban aboard the plane with advisers, Mr. Trump decided to cancel the administration’s rollout of an announcement, which included a news conference that Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, was planning to hold on the issue the next day. Instead, another meeting was proposed.

The discussion aboard the Nov. 4 flight was first reported by The Washington Post.

White House officials pushing for action were still holding out hope that there would be an announcement of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, with an exemption for menthol, last week.

The proposed ban had gathered significant support earlier this fall, as the crisis over teenage vaping, with year-over-year increases, coincided with a sprawling outbreak of severe lung injuries. While most of the illnesses, now affecting more than 2,000 people and causing more than 40 deaths, have been attributed to vaping THC products, the e-cigarette industry also became the target of criticism for luring minors into using its products.

A lack of federal action prompted several states to try to institute bans on flavored e-cigarettes, spurring the vaping and tobacco industries to mount legal challenges and lobby lawmakers and the White House against regulatory restrictions that would impede adult e-smokers.

Juul Labs, the largest seller of e-cigarettes in the country and the target of several federal investigations, had taken most of its flavors off the market in anticipation of a national flavor ban. The company had said that its mint-flavored pods made up about 70 percent of its sales; menthol was 10 percent; and two tobacco flavors accounted for 20 percent. But many other look-alikes, in flavors like chai and melon, have sprung up to fill the void left by Juul’s actions.

Mr. Trump has since decided to follow the advice of political advisers to stall on the issue and meet with more groups.

On Nov. 11, Mr. Trump tweeted that he would be “meeting with representatives of the vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the vaping and E-cigarette dilemma.”

The announcement on Twitter took West Wing advisers by surprise, and one senior official said no meeting had been scheduled. One adviser who spoke to Mr. Trump recently said the president was simply overwhelmed by other issues, including the televised impeachment hearings that began last week, distracting him from deciding what the administration should do about restricting e-cigarette flavors.

But he is concerned about his chances in 2020, and allies working for the vaping industry have told Mr. Trump of battleground state polling of his own voters that showed the issue costing him support.

One such poll was commissioned by John McLaughlin, one of the Trump campaign pollsters, for the Vapor Technology Association. The poll, which surveyed battleground state voters who vape, showed negative results for Mr. Trump if he went ahead with a ban, and was passed around to a number of people in Mr. Trump’s circle, including Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, and senior White House officials.

Tony Abboud, the executive director of the group that commissioned the poll that has helped influence the president, said they were encouraged by “what appears to be a move in the right direction for adult smokers and their families. Bans don’t work, they never have.”

Mr. Trump has also been under an intense lobbying campaign over the past seven weeks, waged by tobacco and vaping companies, along with conservative organizations, like Americans for Tax Reform, which are opposed to regulatory limits that would affect retailers, small businesses and adult consumers of e-cigarettes. Some have promoted enforcing sales restrictions to protect minors, or raising the national age to 21 for sales of all tobacco products.

The trajectory of the flavor ban — from a bold pronouncement of swift action to a fizzle after the political realities of taking such an action emerge — is similar to Mr. Trump’s stance on gun legislation. Months after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, when Mr. Trump said he wanted to pass “very meaningful background checks,” warnings from gun rights advocates and Republican lawmakers about the political fallout that would result from doing that ultimately led to no action on the issue.

Inside the White House, the flavor ban has also become a proxy issue for how his advisers see Mr. Trump’s path to re-election — in one camp are those who believe he should try to win back suburban women, including mothers of teenagers who would presumably worry about their children becoming addicted to nicotine. In the other are those who advise him to assume that voting bloc would not favor him anyway and to focus only on energizing his base.

Mr. Parscale, the campaign manager, had flagged to Mr. Trump after he first announced his intention to ban most flavored e-cigarettes that it would hurt him with his base. Mr. Parscale and other advisers warned Mr. Trump to slow down, and announce he was going to take time studying the issue, telling him that a ban could depress turnout in critical states.

Those political concerns were not without merit: E-cigarette users have held protests outside the White House and outside Trump rallies that they may have attended under other circumstances. Protesters have also raised concerns about the potential closing of thousands of vape shops, which they said would hurt the economy and cost jobs across the country.

But it is not clear whether pro-vaping activists are one-issue voters.

While some advice to Mr. Trump was grounded in polling, some was based on a gut-level understanding of Trump voters: Taking away the right to smoke or vape would be something akin to taking away firearms.

In the opposing camp is Kellyanne Conway, a top White House adviser and Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, who has been telling colleagues and the president that it is a mistake to assume, as Mr. Parscale and others have done, that suburban moms who care deeply about a public health crisis for teenagers have deserted Mr. Trump for good.

Those advisers, including Mr. Azar, have been pushing the administration to address the issue, as parents and schools as well as public health experts have grown increasingly concerned about the rise in teenage vaping. Mr. Azar had told the president that about more than one-fourth of high school students reported vaping e-cigarettes within the previous 30 days, according to this year’s survey of tobacco use among youths.

Recent Vaping Regulations

Several states have announced e-cigarette bans in response to recent vaping illnesses and deaths. More maps and charts.

Westlake Legal Group regs-335 Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes   Westlake Legal Group regs-335-map Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes

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Considering or working on a ban

Announced or enacted ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Announced or enacted ban on all e-cigarettes

Four-month ban on all vaping products

Westlake Legal Group regs-600 Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes   Westlake Legal Group regs-600-map Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes

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Announced or enacted ban on all e-cigarettes

Four-month ban on all vaping products

Westlake Legal Group regs-800 Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes   Westlake Legal Group regs-800-map Trump Backs Off Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes your-feed-healthcare Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Recalls and Bans of Products Presidential Election of 2020 Menthol Juul Labs Inc E-Cigarettes

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The Trump

administration

Los Angeles

Considering or working on a ban

Announced or enacted ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Announced or enacted ban on all e-cigarettes

Four-month ban on all vaping products

By The New York Times

Last September, Mr. Azar said the proposed ban would include mint and menthol because those two flavors appeared to be popular with teenagers, especially once e-cigarette companies responded to criticism of appealing to young people and began pulling fruit and dessert varieties, like mango, from shelves.

But those who had opposed a flavor ban — especially against menthol — found ammunition in the results of a recently released national survey of high school students, which showed that very few preferred menthol. Most said they chose fruit or mint as their favorite flavors of e-cigarettes.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, who at first expressed interest in the ban as a mother of a teenage son, did not respond to a request for comment about whether she was still invested in the issue.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Juul Replaces Its C.E.O. With a Tobacco Executive

The vaping powerhouse Juul Labs replaced its chief executive with a veteran of Big Tobacco on Wednesday, deepening the company’s turmoil and raising doubts about the very future of the e-cigarette industry.

The sudden announcement capped a relentless cascade of events that has called into question the safety of devices once billed as a promising alternative to cigarettes, one of the world’s leading preventable causes of death. Now, Juul is looking to that very industry for its survival as it faces a federal criminal inquiry, new bans on some of its products, and an onslaught of state and federal regulatory investigations into its marketing practices.

Early Wednesday morning, after frantic days of internal meetings, the company announced that its current chief executive, Kevin Burns, would resign as chief executive. His chosen replacement is K.C. Crosthwaite, a top official at Altria, the cigarette giant that bought a 35-percent share in Juul for $12.8 billion last December and has seen the company it invested in rocked by growing crisis.

In another sign of regulatory and business uncertainty, Altria and Philip Morris International said on Wednesday that they had ended talks to merge, dashing the chances of reuniting the two arms of what had once been the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

The e-cigarette industry — which Juul commands, with more than 70 percent of the market — is being threatened by twin public health crises: the rise of teenage vaping, which public health officials fear could create a new generation of nicotine addicts, and a surge of severe lung illnesses, including at least 11 deaths, linked to vaping.

Dr. David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said that in light of the epidemic of youth vaping, he doubted that any e-cigarette company could now prove that the benefits of its products outweighed the risks — a critical factor to win agency approval to stay on the market in the United States.

“In some ways the last several years has provided a record where it’s hard to see that these products could ever meet the ‘protection of public health standard,’” Dr. Kessler said. “And if they can’t meet that standard, they can’t be marketed.”

Testifying at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Ned Sharpless, appeared to echo that sentiment, saying, “We really don’t think anyone should be using e-cigarettes, except perhaps a person who is using it instead of a combustible cigarette.”

Dr. Sharpless said the agency could have done more to keep the products away from teenagers. “In retrospect the F.D.A. should have acted sooner,” he said. “We’re going to catch up.”

In addition to the deaths, 530 cases of the lung sicknesses have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing public health agencies to warn most people to refrain from vaping any substance.

Many of the patients have said they had been vaping THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, when they became short of breath and grew sicker, officials have reported. But some said they were using just nicotine, or both.

Juul sells only nicotine products along with its sleek and popular vaping pens. Nevertheless, the company has become synonymous with vaping generally for much of the public.

“Juul is the face of the current public health crisis. Heads need to roll,” said Stefanie Miller, a co-founder of Sandhill Strategy, which consults with investment firms on regulatory policy, particularly tobacco-industry regulations. “To see the top head roll is a sign to public health, investors, to everyone that they know they need to make some changes.”

In announcing its change of leadership, Juul appeared to cave on issues that could be detrimental to its business. It said it would not fight a Trump administration proposal to ban most flavored e-cigarettes, which would slash its domestic sales. The company also said it would end one of its marketing campaigns, “Make the Switch,” which the F.D.A. warned could be construed as an illegal effort to portray its e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes.

A Juul employee said the company was also considering whether it should abandon its multimillion-dollar campaign on a ballot initiative to overturn an e-cigarette ban that is to take effect in San Francisco early next year.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161482992_d7bca353-1885-4105-bcb4-f2694ab1bfbf-articleLarge Juul Replaces Its C.E.O. With a Tobacco Executive Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Respiratory Diseases Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Recalls and Bans of Products Philip Morris Companies Inc Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Juul Labs Inc Food and Drug Administration E-Cigarettes Crosthwaite, K C Burns, Kevin R Appointments and Executive Changes Altria Group Inc

Kevin Burns, the outgoing Juul Labs C.E.O., in June.CreditLea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle, via Polaris

Within the last week alone, several television networks decided to stop broadcasting Juul’s ads; Massachusetts announced a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products; Rhode Island announced a ban on flavors; Walmart said it would stop selling all e-cigarettes; and the F.D.A. announced it had opened a criminal inquiry into the supply chain of vaping products and devices. The Federal Trade Commission also has been investigating Juul’s marketing practices. And the United States attorney for Northern California opened a criminal investigation into the company, a development first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

On Sept. 10, President Trump met with Dr. Sharpless and Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary. After informing the president of another spike in teenage vaping, the two officials said they would issue the proposed ban on most flavored e-cigarettes within several weeks.

That would include mint and menthol, they said, although some vaping industry leaders have vowed to contest the inclusion of those two items. Juul has said mint and menthol now account for about 80 percent of its products and a ban on those would severely hurt its domestic sales.

All of this foreshadows a regulatory showdown at the F.D.A. that is slated to begin in May next year when the agency will determine what, if any, e-cigarettes can remain on the domestic market.

“The United States is moving toward asking vaping companies for permission to sell any products,” Ms. Miller from Sandhill Strategy said. “The people they’re asking, the F.D.A., have shown these products are killing people.”

The turn in fortunes for Juul, and perhaps e-cigarettes generally, culminates one of the biggest disagreements in public health in recent years: whether e-cigarettes would prove a benefit to society. Supporters of e-cigarettes have argued that these devices have the potential to save millions of lives and billions of dollars by providing a safer alternative to the nation’s leading killer, traditional cigarettes.

Some investment advisers pointed to the disarray with e-cigarettes as a potential benefit to traditional smoking. “The recent media scrutiny on vaping will help overall cigarette consumption,” Nik Modi, a tobacco-industry analyst for RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a message to investors.

In recent weeks, as Juul sales have slowed, sales of cigarettes declined at a slower pace with each passing week, according to Nielsen, a market-research firm.

But skeptics have said all along that not enough is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes and assert that they, and Juul, in particular, have spurred heavy experimentation by teenagers.

The upshot may drive the market for e-cigarettes overseas, a market that Juul’s new chief executive, Mr. Crosthwaite, highlighted to employees in an all-hands meeting at the company headquarters on Wednesday morning.

“International expansion continues to be a huge opportunity given the number of smokers around the world,” he told employees.

But the company’s initial foray in China this month failed almost immediately, and last week India also said it would ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

Mr. Crosthwaite, in coming from Altria, brings to Juul the experience of working for one of the most regulatory-savvy companies in the world; the tobacco industry has navigated perilous straits in keeping its product on shelves and pushing internationally, despite cigarettes being a proven, addictive killer.

In a speech to a tobacco industry gathering in Washington on Wednesday, Howard Willard III, chief executive of Altria, said Mr. Crosthwaite would help Juul “urgently control, confront and reduce youth vaping,” and deal with the company’s other problems.

“This is a pivotal moment,” he said. “Vaping is at an inflection point.”

Dr. Ned Sharpless, the F.D.A. acting commissioner, testified about the threats of e-cigarettes to the public before a House subcommittee on Wednesday.CreditPete Marovich for The New York Times

Despite the public concerns, Altria invested $12.8 billion in Juul in 2018 for a 35 percent stake, valuing Juul at about $38 billion. Mr. Crosthwaite became a board observer at Juul.

As for the decision to end the merger talks between Philip Morris and Altria, the two companies said they would instead focus on rolling out the IQOS heated tobacco product in the United States. They emphasized that IQOS, which Philip Morris International sells abroad and which has received F.D.A. approval for sale in the United States, is not “an e-vapor product.”

IQOS is a penlike electronic device with a battery pack that resembles a cigarette case. It features a heating blade that warms a tobacco stick and emits a vapor with the taste of tobacco, but with fewer noxious chemicals than cigarette smoke. The F.D.A. has approved it for sale in the United States and said the product could help people to quit smoking. The agency is still weighing whether to permit Altria to be marketed as a reduced-risk product.

Investors had appeared largely skeptical of the potential deal, despite the companies arguing that reuniting could revive their fortunes amid a decline in cigarette sales.

On Wall Street, analysts said they were not that surprised by the abrupt end to the merger talks, especially given the steady drumbeat of negative headlines around vaping and Juul’s products. The stock of Philip Morris International ended Wednesday up more than 5 percent at $75.28, while Altria’s stock ended essentially flat at $40.56.

But Altria is likely to face a bumpier future amid the uncertainty around Juul.

Analysts said it was increasingly likely that Altria might have to write down the value of its $12.8 billion investment in Juul, given the recent developments and uncertainty surrounding the company.

“When the Juul transaction was done, it valued the company at around $37 billion,” said Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA Research. “Juul’s valuation today is probably a fraction of that.”

Meanwhile, Altria’s debt levels more than doubled as it borrowed to buy the Juul stake, he noted.

Tim Hubbard, an assistant professor of management in the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said it was not surprising that Mr. Burns was stepping down from the company as it had struggled to adapt to the swift change of perceptions, from a company that was providing an alternative to smoking to one that had been vilified.

“When compared to traditional tobacco products — which have remained on the shelves for decades despite being proven dangerous — e-cigarette makers have failed spectacularly,” Mr. Hubbard said in an email. “Bringing in a traditional tobacco executive who knows how to market and manage government relationships with deadly products matches the firm’s needs.”

Michael J. de la Merced and Katie Thomas contributed reporting.

Earlier coverage

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Juul Replaces Its C.E.O. With a Tobacco Executive

The vaping powerhouse Juul Labs replaced its chief executive with a veteran of Big Tobacco on Wednesday, deepening the company’s turmoil and raising doubts about the very future of the e-cigarette industry.

The sudden announcement capped a relentless cascade of events that has called into question the safety of devices once billed as a promising alternative to cigarettes, one of the world’s leading preventable causes of death. Now, Juul is looking to that very industry for its survival as it faces a federal criminal inquiry, new bans on some of its products, and an onslaught of state and federal regulatory investigations into its marketing practices.

Early Wednesday morning, after frantic days of internal meetings, the company announced that its current chief executive, Kevin Burns, would resign as chief executive. His chosen replacement is K.C. Crosthwaite, a top official at Altria, the cigarette giant that bought a 35-percent share in Juul for $12.8 billion last December and has seen the company it invested in rocked by growing crisis.

In another sign of regulatory and business uncertainty, Altria and Philip Morris International said on Wednesday that they had ended talks to merge, dashing the chances of reuniting the two arms of what had once been the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

The e-cigarette industry — which Juul commands, with more than 70 percent of the market — is being threatened by twin public health crises: the rise of teenage vaping, which public health officials fear could create a new generation of nicotine addicts, and a surge of severe lung illnesses, including at least 11 deaths, linked to vaping.

Dr. David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said that in light of the epidemic of youth vaping, he doubted that any e-cigarette company could now prove that the benefits of its products outweighed the risks — a critical factor to win agency approval to stay on the market in the United States.

“In some ways the last several years has provided a record where it’s hard to see that these products could ever meet the ‘protection of public health standard,’” Dr. Kessler said. “And if they can’t meet that standard, they can’t be marketed.”

Testifying at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Ned Sharpless, appeared to echo that sentiment, saying, “We really don’t think anyone should be using e-cigarettes, except perhaps a person who is using it instead of a combustible cigarette.”

Dr. Sharpless said the agency could have done more to keep the products away from teenagers. “In retrospect the F.D.A. should have acted sooner,” he said. “We’re going to catch up.”

In addition to the deaths, 530 cases of the lung sicknesses have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing public health agencies to warn most people to refrain from vaping any substance.

Many of the patients have said they had been vaping THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, when they became short of breath and grew sicker, officials have reported. But some said they were using just nicotine, or both.

Juul sells only nicotine products along with its sleek and popular vaping pens. Nevertheless, the company has become synonymous with vaping generally for much of the public.

“Juul is the face of the current public health crisis. Heads need to roll,” said Stefanie Miller, a co-founder of Sandhill Strategy, which consults with investment firms on regulatory policy, particularly tobacco-industry regulations. “To see the top head roll is a sign to public health, investors, to everyone that they know they need to make some changes.”

In announcing its change of leadership, Juul appeared to cave on issues that could be detrimental to its business. It said it would not fight a Trump administration proposal to ban most flavored e-cigarettes, which would slash its domestic sales. The company also said it would end one of its marketing campaigns, “Make the Switch,” which the F.D.A. warned could be construed as an illegal effort to portray its e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes.

A Juul employee said the company was also considering whether it should abandon its multimillion-dollar campaign on a ballot initiative to overturn an e-cigarette ban that is to take effect in San Francisco early next year.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161482992_d7bca353-1885-4105-bcb4-f2694ab1bfbf-articleLarge Juul Replaces Its C.E.O. With a Tobacco Executive Teenagers and Adolescence Smoking and Tobacco Respiratory Diseases Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Recalls and Bans of Products Philip Morris Companies Inc Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Juul Labs Inc Food and Drug Administration E-Cigarettes Crosthwaite, K C Burns, Kevin R Appointments and Executive Changes Altria Group Inc

Kevin Burns, the outgoing Juul Labs C.E.O., in June.CreditLea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle, via Polaris

Within the last week alone, several television networks decided to stop broadcasting Juul’s ads; Massachusetts announced a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products; Rhode Island announced a ban on flavors; Walmart said it would stop selling all e-cigarettes; and the F.D.A. announced it had opened a criminal inquiry into the supply chain of vaping products and devices. The Federal Trade Commission also has been investigating Juul’s marketing practices. And the United States attorney for Northern California opened a criminal investigation into the company, a development first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

On Sept. 10, President Trump met with Dr. Sharpless and Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary. After informing the president of another spike in teenage vaping, the two officials said they would issue the proposed ban on most flavored e-cigarettes within several weeks.

That would include mint and menthol, they said, although some vaping industry leaders have vowed to contest the inclusion of those two items. Juul has said mint and menthol now account for about 80 percent of its products and a ban on those would severely hurt its domestic sales.

All of this foreshadows a regulatory showdown at the F.D.A. that is slated to begin in May next year when the agency will determine what, if any, e-cigarettes can remain on the domestic market.

“The United States is moving toward asking vaping companies for permission to sell any products,” Ms. Miller from Sandhill Strategy said. “The people they’re asking, the F.D.A., have shown these products are killing people.”

The turn in fortunes for Juul, and perhaps e-cigarettes generally, culminates one of the biggest disagreements in public health in recent years: whether e-cigarettes would prove a benefit to society. Supporters of e-cigarettes have argued that these devices have the potential to save millions of lives and billions of dollars by providing a safer alternative to the nation’s leading killer, traditional cigarettes.

Some investment advisers pointed to the disarray with e-cigarettes as a potential benefit to traditional smoking. “The recent media scrutiny on vaping will help overall cigarette consumption,” Nik Modi, a tobacco-industry analyst for RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a message to investors.

In recent weeks, as Juul sales have slowed, sales of cigarettes declined at a slower pace with each passing week, according to Nielsen, a market-research firm.

But skeptics have said all along that not enough is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes and assert that they, and Juul, in particular, have spurred heavy experimentation by teenagers.

The upshot may drive the market for e-cigarettes overseas, a market that Juul’s new chief executive, Mr. Crosthwaite, highlighted to employees in an all-hands meeting at the company headquarters on Wednesday morning.

“International expansion continues to be a huge opportunity given the number of smokers around the world,” he told employees.

But the company’s initial foray in China this month failed almost immediately, and last week India also said it would ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

Mr. Crosthwaite, in coming from Altria, brings to Juul the experience of working for one of the most regulatory-savvy companies in the world; the tobacco industry has navigated perilous straits in keeping its product on shelves and pushing internationally, despite cigarettes being a proven, addictive killer.

In a speech to a tobacco industry gathering in Washington on Wednesday, Howard Willard III, chief executive of Altria, said Mr. Crosthwaite would help Juul “urgently control, confront and reduce youth vaping,” and deal with the company’s other problems.

“This is a pivotal moment,” he said. “Vaping is at an inflection point.”

Dr. Ned Sharpless, the F.D.A. acting commissioner, testified about the threats of e-cigarettes to the public before a House subcommittee on Wednesday.CreditPete Marovich for The New York Times

Despite the public concerns, Altria invested $12.8 billion in Juul in 2018 for a 35 percent stake, valuing Juul at about $38 billion. Mr. Crosthwaite became a board observer at Juul.

As for the decision to end the merger talks between Philip Morris and Altria, the two companies said they would instead focus on rolling out the IQOS heated tobacco product in the United States. They emphasized that IQOS, which Philip Morris International sells abroad and which has received F.D.A. approval for sale in the United States, is not “an e-vapor product.”

IQOS is a penlike electronic device with a battery pack that resembles a cigarette case. It features a heating blade that warms a tobacco stick and emits a vapor with the taste of tobacco, but with fewer noxious chemicals than cigarette smoke. The F.D.A. has approved it for sale in the United States and said the product could help people to quit smoking. The agency is still weighing whether to permit Altria to be marketed as a reduced-risk product.

Investors had appeared largely skeptical of the potential deal, despite the companies arguing that reuniting could revive their fortunes amid a decline in cigarette sales.

On Wall Street, analysts said they were not that surprised by the abrupt end to the merger talks, especially given the steady drumbeat of negative headlines around vaping and Juul’s products. The stock of Philip Morris International ended Wednesday up more than 5 percent at $75.28, while Altria’s stock ended essentially flat at $40.56.

But Altria is likely to face a bumpier future amid the uncertainty around Juul.

Analysts said it was increasingly likely that Altria might have to write down the value of its $12.8 billion investment in Juul, given the recent developments and uncertainty surrounding the company.

“When the Juul transaction was done, it valued the company at around $37 billion,” said Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA Research. “Juul’s valuation today is probably a fraction of that.”

Meanwhile, Altria’s debt levels more than doubled as it borrowed to buy the Juul stake, he noted.

Tim Hubbard, an assistant professor of management in the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said it was not surprising that Mr. Burns was stepping down from the company as it had struggled to adapt to the swift change of perceptions, from a company that was providing an alternative to smoking to one that had been vilified.

“When compared to traditional tobacco products — which have remained on the shelves for decades despite being proven dangerous — e-cigarette makers have failed spectacularly,” Mr. Hubbard said in an email. “Bringing in a traditional tobacco executive who knows how to market and manage government relationships with deadly products matches the firm’s needs.”

Michael J. de la Merced and Katie Thomas contributed reporting.

Earlier coverage

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Walmart to End Sales of E-Cigarettes as Vaping Concerns Mount

Walmart said on Friday that it would stop selling e-cigarettes at its stores in the United States, responding to growing concerns over the health effects of vaping and its soaring popularity among teenagers.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products,” the nation’s largest retailer said in a statement on Friday.

Walmart will continue selling e-cigarettes until its current inventory is exhausted, which could last until January. A company spokesman said the retailer would continue to sell traditional cigarettes.

The decision by Walmart underscores the way parents, doctors and government officials are increasingly treating e-cigarettes, marketed as smoking-cessation devices, as addictive and potentially dangerous products.

And it also represented a significant business move for Walmart. Although vaping products do not make up a large portion of the company’s overall revenue, e-cigarette shoppers tend to be younger and more loyal customers, who shop regularly and often buy other items when they come to replenish their vaping supplies.

“The e-cigarette shopper is a very important shopper for Walmart,’’ said Burt Flickinger, a managing director of the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

Walmart is not the first retailer to stop selling e-cigarettes. Rite Aid, one of the country’s biggest pharmacy chains, said in April that it would stop selling e-cigarettes and other vaping products over concerns that they were fueling tobacco use among middle and high school students across the United States.

In recent weeks, mounting medical concerns about the effects of vaping have prompted government investigations and warnings from medical groups.

On Thursday, medical authorities said that the number of vaping-related lung illnesses had risen to 530 probable cases, and a Missouri man became the eighth person to die from the mysterious ailments. Public health officials have said that many of the people who became sick were vaping THC, the ingredient in marijuana that induces a high, although some people have reported getting ill from vaping nicotine through e-cigarettes, too.

No one product or ingredient has been identified as the cause of the illnesses, and health experts say there may be multiple devices or ingredients involved.

Investigations are underway by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments.

Much of the concern about vaping has focused on use among teenagers. Federal officials said on Wednesday that teenage vaping continued to increase this year, suggesting that campaigns to curb e-cigarette use among minors were not working.

Joshua Raffel, a spokesman for Juul Labs, the most popular e-cigarette company in the country, declined to comment. Last week, after the Trump administration said it would ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, Juul said it strongly agreed “with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products.”

David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, which owns 35 percent of Juul, said, “We respect a retailer’s right to determine what products they want to sell.”

Walmart had raised the minimum age for tobacco products to 21 earlier this year, and said in May that it would also no longer sell “fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

The retailer’s decision to end e-cigarette sales entirely comes as it also grapples with its connections to the gun industry in the wake of the shooting in August at one of its stores in El Paso.

Earlier this month, Walmart said it would stop selling ammunition that could be used in military-style assault rifles, discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores and call on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban.

Michael Corkery and Sheila Kaplan contributed reporting.

Walmart Raises Minimum Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

May 8, 2019

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Vaping Illnesses Increase to 530 Probable Cases, C.D.C. Says

Sept. 19, 2019

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Is It Time to Quit Vaping?

Sept. 19, 2019

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Fairfax County changes its response after reported student vaping soars

Health concerns around vaping are not just a national conversation, it’s a daily reality for D.C.-area school systems. Fairfax County, Virginia, is changing its policy to provide support for kids having trouble putting the e-cigarette down.

If a student was caught smoking on campus in the past, perhaps they would have faced consequences, such as limited participation in extracurricular activities or sports. But now, there is a more comprehensive response in Fairfax County schools to address the root of a growing problem: addiction to nicotine.

“We think that the vast majority of these incidents are due to vaping and e-cigarettes, not due to traditional tobacco products,” said Lucy Caldwell, with Fairfax County Public Schools, of the sharp increase in reported incidents.

School system data shows that in the 2016-17 school year, 69 students were identified as having tobacco-related substance abuse. “And then, in a year, it jumped to more than 400. And then, last school year, it was more than 600, and that’s probably the tip of the iceberg,” Caldwell said.

Along with distributing materials about the dangers of addiction and the health-concerns about vaping that have made headlines recently, the school system is hiring support staff.

“So we do have additional counselors and substance abuse specialists this year, and they’re actually embedded into the school system, so we’re there to provide support and help for people who might need it,” Caldwell said.

Education around the health perils of using nicotine start in county school curriculum in the second grade. However, Caldwell said many students may not realize they are addicted and may misunderstand that vaping is putting nicotine into their bodies.

She said it’s paramount for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping so the message is continued at home.

Source

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CBS: Is a social panic over e-cigs ruining the “biggest public health opportunity” in a century?

Westlake Legal Group cbs-vaping CBS: Is a social panic over e-cigs ruining the “biggest public health opportunity” in a century? vaping The Blog social panic E-Cigarettes cigarettes

Are we about to lose the war on cigarettes by winning a battle against vaping? “If we lose this opportunity” to get rid of cigarettes, David Abrams tells CBS News, “I think we will have blown the single biggest public health opportunity we’ve ever had in 120 years.” At issue is whether vaping is better for health than cigarettes, and how much better — a point on which British and American researchers strongly disagree:

“My research shows that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than cigarettes,” said Dr. Lion Shahab, an associate professor at University College London.

Public Health England describes e-cigarettes as “at least 95% less harmful” than tobacco cigarettes.

Dr. David Abrams, a professor at New York University, said that he thinks that’s a fair estimate. “Actually, I would go further,” he said. “I think there’s no evidence from looking at the cancer biomarkers, that it could be as high as 98% or 99% for cancer.”

Vaping isn’t harmless, Abrams notes, as nicotine is still addictive and has its own health-related concerns. Eliminating the tar and carbon monoxide of smoking, however, makes for a dramatic difference in health issues between the two. What’s more, the push to ban vaping will make it much more difficult to move current cigarette smokers to a much less harmful transition product. Abrams estimates that a ten year push to get cigarette smokers to e-cigs could save six to seven million lives a year.

Just how much less harmful e-cigs are is the core of the debate, however. CBS This Morning addressed the controversy in a second video report, as American researchers studying long-term vaping impacts think it might be nearly as bad — at least outside the lungs. Current animal-based research shows tendencies toward arterial changes that could lead to significant heart disease with decades of use, which will lead to excess preventable deaths as well:

But other American scientists, like West Virginia University School of Medicine associate professor Mark Olfert, are drawing very different conclusions.

“I would say it’s 95% harmful,” Olfert said, “because … in any single study that I’ve seen that’s looking at this in a meaningful way outside the lung, they’re finding damage and harm.” …

In a recent study, Olfert looked at eight months of exposure — the equivalent of 25 human years. What he found concerns him: The animals’ arteries stiffened almost as much as those exposed to cigarette smoke over the same time.

“Stiffer arteries means greater risk for stroke, for heart attack, atherosclerosis, aneurisms, any number of vascular effects,” Olfert said. “It’s extremely alarming, because it tells me that e-cigarettes simply are not gonna be safer than cigarettes.”

To some extent, the two camps seem to be talking past each other. Abrams and the British science establishment isn’t declaring vaping to be completely harmless and acknowledge that long-term risks have not yet been established. However, given the choice between the health impacts of cigarettes and e-cigs — which is the real and rational choice for current smokers — who wouldn’t choose to shed the lung-related health impacts? The outcomes Olfert highlight are present at the same levels or worse for cigarettes too, which remain on the market.

It’s the rash of acute illnesses and deaths that are driving concerns, which Abrams says is legitimate — but largely misdirected. The media coverage is driving a social panic about legitimate vaping when the deaths and injuries are related to home-brew vaping:

“I think all the evidence we’ve seen from the FDA and the CDC reports is that these cases are people who bought marijuana oils on the street made either illegally or in a sort of a street version like a dirty street drug,” he said.

“We haven’t seen a single case that a commercially made legitimate e-cigarette that smokers are using has caused any of these illnesses,” Abrams added. “And I would say for smokers they should not be scared by what they’re seeing and that e-cigarettes should still be used instead of cigarettes if they’ve already switched.”

It’s also being driven by the nature of the vaping industry, which largely consists of the same tobacco companies that spent decades being, ahem, less than honest about health impacts. They spent a long, long time micturating on our heads and calling it precipitation, and not only on health impacts but also youth marketing. That’s one of the concerns from US researchers — that vaping has been marketed not just to current smokers but also teens and young adults as a harmless experience. More recent restrictions have at least forced some changes to that approach, but it’s hard to criticize scientists for approaching the next generation of nicotine delivery devices with a very large amount of skepticism.

Still, that skepticism shouldn’t outweigh the science, especially if it can help wean smokers off cigarettes. Right now, it seems as though we’re poised to make the perfect the enemy of the good-enough-for-right-now.

Addendum: Kudos to CBS News for a very fair and balanced approach to this controversy, too. It’s not easy for news magazine shows to spend this much time and effort presenting all sides of an issue.

The post CBS: Is a social panic over e-cigs ruining the “biggest public health opportunity” in a century? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Walmart to End Sales of E-Cigarettes

Walmart said on Friday that it would end sales of e-cigarettes at its locations in the United States, as medical concerns about the effects of vaping rise along with sicknesses and deaths seemingly linked to the habit.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products,” the nation’s largest retailer said in a statement on Friday. The company will continue to sell the devices until its current inventory of e-cigarettes is exhausted.

Walmart’s decision came a day after medical authorities said that the number of vaping-related lung illnesses had risen to 530 probable cases, and a Missouri man became the eighth to die from the mysterious ailments.

Investigations are underway by the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments.

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced emergency regulations to quickly ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and state health officials approved the ban on Tuesday. Michigan announced this month that it would also prohibit such products.

Last week, the Trump administration said it would move to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes.

Walmart had raised the minimum age for tobacco products to 21 earlier this year, and had said in May that it would also no longer sell “fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

Juul, the most popular e-cigarette company in the country, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move by Walmart is the most recent example of the retailer responding to widespread concerns about its products. In the wake of the shooting at one of its own stores in El Paso in August, Walmart said it would stop selling ammunition that could be used in military-style assault rifles.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Walmart Raises Minimum Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

May 8, 2019

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Vaping Illnesses Increase to 530 Probable Cases, C.D.C. Says

Sept. 19, 2019

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Sept. 19, 2019

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For Trump, a Time of Indecision

WASHINGTON — Speaking to a Fox News reporter near the Mexican border on Wednesday, President Trump seemed taken aback when asked if the White House were preparing to roll out gun control proposals the next day, a timeline administration officials had suggested was likely.

“No, we’re not moving on anything,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going very slowly in one way because we want to make sure it’s right.”

The result is that almost two months after the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, when Mr. Trump said he wanted to pass “very meaningful background checks,” warnings from gun rights advocates and Republican lawmakers about the political blowback that would result from doing that have led to indecision about what to do and what the time frame is for sharing it.

But idling in neutral is not something the president is doing only on guns. In discussions with his staff, Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied as to what it might be, according to interviews with a half-dozen aides and advisers. In the meantime, he has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water even on possible staff changes he wants to make, for fear of how things “play.”

On the international stage, Mr. Trump has seemed most conflicted about how to respond to Iran’s attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, threatening to order “the ultimate option” one moment, and then warning that getting involved in Middle East wars was a mistake the next.

And the lack of direction is apparent even in the message he delivers at his campaign rallies. With little in the way of policy proposals or a larger vision, he has been telling crowds from New Hampshire to South Carolina, “You have no choice but to vote for me,” and has been promoting his new slogan, “Keep America Great.”

On guns, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has made it clear he will not take any action until the White House does. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I’ll put it on the floor,” he said this month.

For Mr. Trump, who has been under pressure to act but appears to be aware that any decision he makes comes loaded with its own political risk, part of the holdup is division within his own administration.

When William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative director, met with Republican lawmakers on Wednesday, distributing a plan to expand background checks, he did so with the blessing of the White House, according to people briefed on what took place. But White House communications officials immediately distanced the president from what they described as a “test run” on a proposal they expected would meet resistance and ultimately convinced Mr. Barr, who some Trump aides view as overly aggressive that the plan was a nonstarter.

“The president has not signed off on anything yet,” said Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman. Of the plan that was being distributed by a White House staff member and a senior administration official, he said, “This is not a White House document, and any suggestion to the contrary is completely false.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159938985_df46e76d-4aaf-42cb-8f68-669a0688b884-articleLarge For Trump, a Time of Indecision United States Politics and Government Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Mulvaney, Mick McConnell, Mitch gun control E-Cigarettes Barr, William P

Mr. Trump said he would pass “very meaningful background checks” after the mass shooting last month in El Paso.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Mr. Trump also appears to be tempering his aggressive vows to impose a ban on all flavored vaping products. In an announcement last week in the Oval Office, with the first lady, Melania Trump, by his side, Mr. Trump declared that “we can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected.”

But days afterward, Mr. Trump sent out a tweet that raised questions about his commitment to a ban that his administration is forging ahead with. “Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!” Mr. Trump wrote, making the implicit argument that vaping was a good alternative to cigarettes and shifting the focus counterfeit products.

The tweet, Mr. Trump has told aides, came after a discussion with his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who warned him that the ban was going to be received poorly by his conservative supporters. On Thursday, the White House scheduled and then abruptly postponed a meeting with conservatives concerned about the vaping ban. One person briefed on the process said the agencies that would impose such a ban were still reviewing how to go about it.

Still, to the president’s critics, Mr. Trump’s apparent paralysis on policy issues like guns is indicative of a larger problem in his administration.

“It requires stepping out of entertainment frame and into a political leadership frame,” said Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, an organization tackling gun violence. “He’s not strong enough to forge any sort of compromise that would get anything less than full support from his base. He does not have that degree of political power or savvy, and that’s why he ends up in a perpetual ‘Infrastructure Week.’”

Mr. Trump’s defenders said he was no different from his predecessors, who also found themselves stalled at times in their presidencies. But some political analysts said Mr. Trump’s situation was different.

“There are a lot of balls in the air here, and it’s not quite clear how he’s going to catch them, or where they’re going to land,” said David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama. “On some things, he has strong opinions, but on many things, he doesn’t. If you don’t have some core organizing principles, other than your own political well-being, it’s easy to get lost.”

Despite wanting to give the impression that he is decisive, said one person close to Mr. Trump, part of his holdup is that the president constantly changes his mind and equivocates. While Mr. Trump often worries about how his decisions will play, he is also anxious about other people making decisions for him. Figuring out where Mr. Trump will end up, the person said, is like trying to figure out what number the roulette ball will land on.

The president has few, if any, trusted advisers to assist him. And Mr. Trump has also been left even more isolated without his longtime assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, whom the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, fired last month after she indiscreetly shared details about his family in an off-the-record dinner with a small group of reporters in Bedminster, N.J., according to multiple White House officials.

Ms. Westerhout had been one of the president’s few organizing influences, the officials said. In the weeks since she left, Mr. Trump has gone back and forth on his feelings about Mr. Mulvaney, praising him one day and denouncing him the next, people familiar with the discussions said.

For longtime Republican analysts, Mr. Trump has a single track he should be traveling on, and any distractions that cause him to take his eyes off could be disastrous politically.

“Right now his big challenge is regaining the initiative on the economic narrative,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who works with the House Republican Conference. “That is still what is concerning the country. That is the core dynamic he’s going to have to deal with leading into this next election.”

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Vaping Bad: Were 2 Wisconsin Brothers the Walter Whites of THC Oils?

BRISTOL, Wis. — The drug bust shattered the early-morning stillness of this manicured subdivision in southeastern Wisconsin. The police pulled up outside a white-shuttered brick condo, jolting neighbors out of their beds with the thud of heavy banging on a door.

What they found inside was not crystal meth or cocaine or fentanyl but slim boxes of vaping cartridges labeled with flavors like strawberry and peaches and cream. An additional 98,000 cartridges lay empty. Fifty-seven Mason jars nearby contained a substance that resembled dark honey: THC-laced liquid used for vaping, a practice that is now at the heart of a major public health scare sweeping the country.

Vaping devices, which have soared in popularity as a way to consume nicotine and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, have been linked in the last several months to nearly 400 illnesses and six deaths. State and federal health investigators have not yet determined a cause, but authorities are focusing on whether noxious chemicals have found their way into vaping supplies, perhaps from a flourishing nationwide black market of vaping products fueled by online sales and lax regulation.

The bust this month in Wisconsin, where THC is illegal, offers an intimate look at the shadowy operations serving large numbers of teenagers and adults around the country who are using black-market vaping products, sometimes unknowingly because it is difficult to tell them apart from legitimate ones.

“When we walked in there, we were like, ‘Oh boy,’” said Capt. Dan Baumann of the Waukesha Police Department. “This is what we were looking for, but we did not know it was this big.”

Key players in the operation, authorities said, were brothers barely into their 20s, Jacob and Tyler Huffhines, who lived in a small town nearby. Both are now in custody at the Kenosha County Jail. More arrests and charges in the case are likely to follow, according to the police.

Tyler, 20, is being held on charges of the manufacture, distribution or delivery of marijuana; Jacob, 23, is being held on charges of cocaine possession and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Authorities said that Jacob was being investigated for his involvement in the drug operation.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160736919_9b23c2ff-b752-47eb-9f11-5cd77f9472c3-articleLarge Vaping Bad: Were 2 Wisconsin Brothers the Walter Whites of THC Oils? your-feed-health Tyler Huffhines Respiratory System Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Marijuana Lungs Kenosha (Wisc) Jacob Huffhines E-Cigarettes Drug Abuse and Traffic Counterfeit Merchandise Black Markets

The police raided this Bristol, Wis., condo this past week, where an alleged cannabis vaping operation took place. A neighbor described a steady stream of young men coming in and out, usually neatly dressed, and driving expensive cars.CreditLauren Justice for The New York Times

Tyler Huffines, left, and Jacob Huffhines.CreditKenosha County Sheriff’s Department

Across the country, public health officials are awakening to a massive underground market for illicit vaping products, both for nicotine and for marijuana. The products are sold online and on the streets, in pop-up stores and individual transactions, sometimes arranged through social media.

“I’d meet people at Starbucks, a cross street, in front of an apartment, wherever they tell you,” said a 17-year-old who was one of the people hospitalized for the vaping-related lung illness in New York state. He asked that his name not be used to guard his reputation and privacy.

“It never comes up where they source it,” he said. “You don’t ask.”

Investigators have not determined whether there is a connection between the Wisconsin operation and any of the cases of severe lung diseases linked to vaping. But public health officials across the country, including Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products for the Food and Drug Administration, say that street-made vaping products should be avoided by all consumers and pose the greatest health risk.

Vaping works by heating liquid and turning it into vapor to be inhaled. The original intent was to give smokers a way to satisfy their nicotine cravings without inhaling the carcinogens that come with burning tobacco.

But vaping devices and cartridges can be used to heat many substances, including cannabis-based oils, and some of the solvents used to dissolve them can present their own health problems.

On Wednesday the Trump administration said it planned to ban most flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods — including mint and menthol, in an effort to reduce the allure of vaping for teenagers. But the move may expand underground demand for flavored pods. And it does nothing to address the robust trade in illicit cannabis vaping products.

The Wisconsin operation is wholly characteristic of a “very advanced and mature illicit market for THC vape carts,” said David Downs, an expert in the marijuana trade and the California bureau chief for Leafly, a website that offers news, information and reviews of cannabis products. (‘Carts’ is the common shorthand for cartridges.)

“These types of operations are integral to the distribution of contaminated THC-based vape carts in the United States,” Mr. Downs said.

They are known as “pen factories,” playing a crucial middleman role: The operations buy empty vape cartridges and counterfeit packaging from Chinese factories, then fill them with THC liquid that they purchase from the United States market. Empty cartridges and packaging are also available on eBay, Alibaba and other e-commerce sites.

The filled cartridges are not by definition a health risk. However, Mr. Downs, along with executives from legal THC companies and health officials, say that the illicit operations are using a tactic common to other illegal drug operations: cutting their product with other substances, including some that can be dangerous.

The motive is profit; an operation makes more money by using less of the core ingredient, THC — which is expensive — and diluting it with oils that cost considerably less.

Public health authorities said some cutting agents might be the cause of the lung illnesses and had homed in on a particular one, vitamin E acetate, an oil that could cause breathing problems and lung inflammation if it does not heat up fully during the vaping aerosolization process.

Medium-grade THC can cost $4,000 a kilo and higher-grade THC costs double that, but additives may cost pennies on the dollar, said Chip Paul, a longtime vaping entrepreneur in Oklahoma who led the state’s drive to legalize medical marijuana there.

“That’s what they’re doing, They’re cutting this oil,” he said of illegal operations. “If I can cut it in half,” he described the thinking, “I can double my money.”

The black market products come packaged looking as the THC vaping products that are legal in some states do. Sometimes the packages are direct counterfeits of mass-market brands sold in places like California or Colorado, where THC is legal, and others just look the part.

“Someone would not recognize that this is not a legitimate product,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, adding that this is a tremendous risk. “The counterfeit handbag you buy on the corner is not going to kill you but the counterfeit vaping device you buy has a chance to kill you,” he said.

In Wisconsin, the neatly packaged vaping devices had logos such as Dabwoods, Chronic Sour Patch and Dank King Louie. The police say the Huffhines operation produced close to 3,000 cartridges a day. Cartridges sell for around $35 to $40.

A lawyer for Tyler Huffhines declined to comment.

Items seized in the raid at the Huffhines brothers’ home.CreditKenosha County Sheriff’s Department

Wisconsin police say they were stunned by the scope and ambition of the Huffhines operation, and only beginning to understand how far it might have reached.

It was a teenager in nearby Waukesha whose actions eventually led the police to the operation in Bristol, a town just miles from the Illinois border.

That teenager’s parents discovered that he was vaping and brought him to the police station in Waukesha. He then told the police where he got his vaping supplies; the authorities traced the sellers step by step, and several degrees of separation later, they were led to the Huffhines brothers.

The condo in Bristol, rented under a false name, was believed to be their base of operations. But on an afternoon this past week, it appeared deserted, with the blinds inside closed tightly and a dent on the front door.

Until recently, the condo hummed with quiet activity that attracted only glancing notice from neighbors. The operation employed at least 10 people, the police said, who were paid $20 an hour to use syringes to fill cartridges with oil. The Huffhineses kept meticulous records, using timecards to note when employees worked. The cartridges were sold in packs of 100, through channels that authorities, who also seized 18 pounds of marijuana and three money-counting machines, said they did not yet fully understand.

It might have been the perfect place for a drug operation, said one neighbor, who described the subdivision as a mix of busy professionals and families who do not socialize much.

Westosha Central High School in Salem, Wis., which the Huffhines brothers had attended.CreditLauren Justice for The New York Times

Another neighbor said she had thought that the Huffhines brothers had begun renting the place a few months ago, describing a steady stream of young men in and out of the condo, usually neatly dressed, and driving expensive cars.

“I can’t give my name,” she said, lowering her voice. “These are drug lords.”

Inside the Huffhines’ home in the nearby Paddock Lake community, a five-minute drive from the condo, investigators last week found $59,000 in cash, eight guns, 10 grams of marijuana, as well as scales and other drug-related paraphernalia.

At Westosha Central High School, which the Huffhines brothers had attended, they were seen as ambitious and privileged, living with their mother, a real estate agent, and grandfather in a quiet neighborhood overlooking a lake.

Students leaving school Thursday afternoon described a system of easy access to vaping devices that contain nicotine or THC, despite strict penalties from administrators if they are caught.

Students frequently vape in the bathrooms, they said, and obtaining vaping devices is as simple as asking someone for a contact.

News about deaths and injuries from vaping has been spreading throughout school, a 16-year-old said.

“People are scared of getting caught,” he added. “Now they’re scared of getting sick, too.”

Earlier coverage

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