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Vaping group plotted lobbying efforts at Trump's DC hotel Thursday, 12 September 2019 ()
NEW YORK (AP) — America's vaping industry has in recent years taken its fight to fend off regulation directly to President Donald Trump's doorstep, with a lobbying group twice booking annual meetings at his Washington hotel and e-cigarette maker Juul hiring two of his former White House officials.

In 2017 and 2018, the Vapor Technology Association met at Trump's hotel to strategize how to lobby the administration, with a Republican lawmaker at one conference advising it to emphasize jobs created by the growing industry and how regulation could devastate hundreds of small vaping businesses.

An intensive, multimillion-dollar lobbying effort by the industry in the last two years alone had largely been successful, until an outcry over hundreds of breathing problems and at least six deaths among users of e-cigarettes and similar devices led the Trump administration to crack down Wednesday with a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes popular with teens.

Ethics experts point to vaping as a glaring example of what they were worried about from the moment Trump took office — an industry seeking to shape government policy while putting money in the president's pocket by holding events, booking rooms and paying for food at one of his properties.

"Whether it is foreign governments or e-cigarette companies, there is a perception that staying at a Trump hotel benefits the patron in some way," said Matthew Sanderson, a former legal adviser to several Republican presidential campaigns. "This cuts to the heart of why there are concerns about the president having active business interests."

The Vapor Technology Association did not reply to an email and phone request for comment on its lobbying efforts but told The Associated Press last year that it booked Trump's hotel for budget reasons and its proximity to Capitol Hill. This...

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