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U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Approves Bill to Reverse Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic, Prohibit Flavored Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 19, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today has taken bold and necessary action to protect the health of America’s kids by approving the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, comprehensive legislation to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use. This bill marks the first time that a full committee of Congress has voted to prohibit all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. This is a critical step to stop tobacco companies from continuing to target and addict kids with enticing flavors, as they have done for far too long.

This bill is urgently needed as the youth e-cigarette epidemic is getting worse every day and it is being driven by flavored products. The latest data shows that 5.3 million kids now use e-cigarettes, including more than 1 in 4 high school students. Nearly all youth e-cigarette users use flavored products, and most cite flavors as a key reason for their use. Congressional action is especially needed since the Trump Administration has backed off its own plan to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes in the face of intense special interest lobbying.

Menthol cigarettes also remain a major driver of youth tobacco use. More than half of youth smokers – including 7 out of 10 African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. This bill would put an end to the tobacco industry’s long and harmful history of targeting kids and African Americans with menthol cigarettes.

In addition to prohibiting flavored tobacco products, this bill includes other strong provisions to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use and save lives. These provisions:

  • Prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 nationwide.
  • Prohibit online sales of tobacco products.
  • Extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Require the FDA to issue a final rule requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising by the court-ordered deadline of March 15, 2020.

We applaud Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for his leadership in introducing this legislation and moving it forward.