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Ex-FDA chief says Trump got ‘spooked by the politics and pushback’ on banning flavored vapes

President Donald Trump delayed announcing a flavored e-cigarette ban because he was “spooked” by the political ramifications, but a plan will likely still be implemented, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday.

“I think that something’s going to get done here,” Gottlieb said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “They wouldn’t be putting on these statements, doubling down on the fact that they’re going to do something if they didn’t intent to do something.”

Trump has scheduled a meeting Friday at the White House with vaping industry executives and public health advocates, in what administration spokesman Judd Deere calls an opportunity to hear from all sides. “The policy making process is not stalled – it continues to move forward,” added Deere.

The president and top health officials said in September the administration was readying a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. However, Trump reportedly refused to sign off on the plan, under pressure from vaping advocates who argue that flavors help adults stop smoking cigarettes and that removing flavors would force vape shops around the country to close. The move could also turn Trump voters against him in 2020.

“I think they were spooked by the politics of this and the pushback,” said Gottlieb, a trained physician, health advocate and Pfizer board member. However, he said, “I think that the reporting’s been accurate that they’re legitimately concerned about shutting down these small mom and pop shops and these adult vape stores.”

Gottlieb expects the Trump administration to allow vape shops, which have age regulations, to continue selling flavored open-tank vape products, as kids are less likely to gain access to those. “You don’t want to sweep the market of everything, you want to leave something for the adults,” especially those who use e-cigarettes to quit regular cigarettes, he said Friday, echoing his Washington Post op-ed earlier this week.

“They’re backing into a policy process and an open process, taking some open dialogue and they’ll probably come out with something that carves around the vape stores,” added Gottlieb, who left the Food and Drug Administration in April.

A potential flavor ban comes as new data shows that more than 5 million U.S. teens are now vaping, with many preferring flavored e-cigarettes. There’s also the matter of the deadly vaping disease that’s causing even more public alarm.

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