President Trump told his health secretary yesterday that he regrets getting involved in the administration’s policy on vaping, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. “I should never have done that f***ing vaping thing,” Trump said during an impromptu call on speakerphone in an Oval Office meeting.

Why it matters: The administration’s ban on flavored vapes is one of its most prominent health policy decisions, but trying to find a compromise between public health groups and the pro-vaping community caused massive political headaches.

Behind the scenes: Trump decided to call Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a campaign meeting, while discussing health care with his political team. He sometimes does that with cabinet secretaries, in an impromptu fashion, during meetings when their issues come up.

  • Azar got defensive after Trump expressed regret for the vaping policy, per a source familiar.
  • Both sources familiar with the conversation said Trump wasn’t expressing regret for the specific vaping policy outcome, which the team believes is the right one, but rather for personally wading into vaping and e-cigarette policy in the first place rather than leaving it up to the Food and Drug Administration.

Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio was talking during the meeting about health care as a 2020 issue, including the importance of protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

  • Trump also ribbed Azar over drug prices, per two sources familiar, asking him, “When are you gonna get these drug prices lower?” and pressing him to “hurry up” on rules that would let people import cheaper drugs from Canada.
  • One source described Trump’s tone as “play bantering.” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman was the first to report the call between Azar and the president.

Read full article here.

Jonathan Swan, Caitlin Owens – AXIOS – January 17, 2020.

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