Does the Pending Federal Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes Endanger Trump's Re-Election?

A new poll suggests it does—and campaign officials agree, leading the administration to consider exempting more flavors.


A new poll suggests that Donald Trump is endangering his re-election by supporting the pending federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) reports that "a significant number of adults [who] use e-cigarettes in seventeen key battleground states indicate that they will reject President Donald Trump's re-election bid if his administration moves forward on a proposed plan to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, on that issue alone."

The poll, which was commissioned by the Vapor Technology Association and conducted last week by McLaughlin & Associates, asked 4,669 e-cigarette consumers in those 17 states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin) about their voting intentions. Nearly all (96 percent) said they were likely to vote in the 2020 presidential election, and nearly all (99 percent) were opposed to a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. More than four-fifths (83 percent) said they were "likely" to vote for or against a candidate "based solely on his or her position on vaping products or issues."

Almost three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for Trump if his administration imposed a ban on e-cigarette flavors, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed in response to vaping by teenagers; 65 percent said "much less likely." That sentiment was strong even among groups inclined to support Trump: 65 percent of people who approve of the job he is doing nevertheless said a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes would make them less likely to vote for him, as did 65 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of conservatives, 83 percent of independent men, and 79 percent of independent women.

"This new poll further confirms what Americans for Tax Reform has long argued, that millions of adults who use flavored nicotine e-cigarettes to quit smoking will vote on that issue and that issue alone," says Paul Blair, ATR's director of strategic initiatives. "Banning flavors would be a significant political liability in every single one of the states that Donald Trump needs to win next year, especially in states like Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which have at least two million adult vapers."

Nationally, according to a 2018 Gallup survey, 2 percent of American adults, or about 4.2 million people, are regular vapers, while another 7 percent (about 14.6 million people) vape occasionally. It's not surprising that people who have switched from smoking to vaping—as 94 percent of the McLaughlin & Associates sample said they did—are strongly opposed to the pending federal ban, which would eliminate the e-liquids that former smokers overwhelmingly prefer.

Last week The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale worries that a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes "could backfire in the 2020 election." That concern, the Post reported today, may lead the administration to revise the FDA ban, which originally would have covered all flavors except tobacco, to exempt mint and menthol as well.

"We are heartened to see signs that the Trump administration is beginning to recognize that its rush to judgment on flavors was misguided," Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, says in a press release. "A ban on flavored nicotine vapes will have zero impact on the health crisis we are seeing with illegal THC cartridges. What this will do is deprive many adult ex-smokers of the vape flavors they rely upon to stay smoke-free."

But Conley cautions that "carving out certain flavors to benefit one company simply will not be effective at achieving any of the White House's goals." He is referring to Juul Labs, the leading e-cigarette company, which recently announced that it had pre-emptively suspended sales of pod flavors other than tobacco, mint, and menthol. Even if the Trump administration decides to tolerate mint and menthol, Conley says, "we will still have a heavy-handed ban that will kill tens of thousands of jobs and cause [many] fewer adults to quit smoking. President Trump should scrap the flavor ban altogether and work on solutions that actually make sense for both adults and youth."

[This post has been corrected; the poll was commissioned by the Vapor Technology Association, not ATR.]