US President Donald Trump said Monday he plans to meet with vaping industry representatives as he considers whether to ban flavored e-cigarette products following a deadly epidemic of vaping-linked lung injuries.
"Will 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," Trump tweeted.
Vaping, already criticized as a "gateway" to tobacco or other addiction, is facing unprecedented scrutiny amid a mysterious epidemic linked to e-cigarette use that has killed 39 and sickened more than 2,000 mostly young people in the US.
Health officials said Friday that they believe the epidemic was linked to a thickening agent called Vitamin E.
Trump has said he supports raising the minimum age for the purchase of e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 as part of a plan to curtail a surge in youth vaping.
But he has also indicated he is concerned about over-regulation of business, a sign the administration is considering stepping back from a previously-announced plan to ban the flavored vaping products popular among teens.
His call for a ban on flavored juices drew praise from some healthcare experts but provoked a sharp backlash from both industry and users.
Hundreds of young people, many of them vaping, protested the possible ban on Saturday outside the White House, carrying signs saying, "We Vape, We Vote."
Trump now appears to be leaning toward a narrower action that would give more deference to the industry.
"Children's health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!" he wrote from New York, where he was attending a Veterans Day event.
Trump said Friday that a policy paper on vaping would be issued this week.
A broad ban on flavors "would severely hurt the business if not put it out of business," Johann Phipps, a vape store owner from Texas who was protesting outside the White House on Saturday, told AFP.
"About 85 percent of sales are fruit flavors."
A recent government survey found that more than five million middle and high school students have reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, an all-time high.