Big Win for Kids: U.S. House… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Big Win for Kids: U.S. House Approves Bill to Reverse Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic, Prohibit Flavored Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today delivered a historic victory for kids over the tobacco industry by voting to prohibit all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. This legislation is exactly what’s needed to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and end the tobacco industry’s long and lethal history of targeting kids and other vulnerable groups with flavored products.

Image of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing media

This bill (H.R. 2339, the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act) marks the first time that a house of Congress has voted to prohibit all flavored tobacco products.  Among other things, the bill also makes critical investments in initiatives to prevent kids from using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and help more smokers quit, especially in medically underserved communities.

The U.S. Senate should quickly take up and approve this legislation. There is no time to waste in stopping the tobacco industry from addicting another generation of kids with flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored products.

Today’s vote is a tribute to the leadership and tenacity of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a true champion for America’s kids. We also applaud Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for his leadership in introducing and advancing this legislation, as well as Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) who joined in introducing it. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) deserve credit for proposing a federal tax on the nicotine in e-cigarettes.

We are particularly grateful for the strong leadership provided by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This bill is urgently needed to reverse the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic. The latest data shows that more than 5.3 million kids now use e-cigarettes, including over 1 in 4 high school students. Flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this crisis as 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 broke its promise to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes and instead left thousands of flavored products widely available (learn more about the kid-friendly products that remain on the market, including disposable e-cigarettes, nicotine e-liquids in over 15,000 flavors, refillable devices and menthol-flavored pod products like Juul). Only the elimination of all flavored e-cigarettes can end the youth epidemic and stop this industry from continuing to lure and addict kids.

The bill’s prohibition on menthol cigarettes also would have enormous public health benefits, especially among African Americans. For decades, the tobacco industry has targeted kids and African Americans with marketing for menthol cigarettes, with devastating results. Today, more than half of youth smokers – including 7 out of 10 African American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. And African Americans suffer high rates of tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit.

In addition to prohibiting flavored tobacco products, this bill also:

  • Prohibits online sales of most tobacco products.
  • Extends advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Requires the FDA to promptly implement the graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising that are required under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.
  • Imposes a federal tax on nicotine used in e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are currently the only tobacco product not taxed at the federal level despite being the most popular tobacco product among youth. Tobacco taxes have proven to be a highly effective way to reduce use of other tobacco products, especially among price-sensitive youth.
  • Funds critical prevention and cessation initiatives. The bill funds a national campaign to educate young people, parents and health care providers about the health risks of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. To help more tobacco users quit, it funds comprehensive tobacco cessation treatment in Community Health Centers, outreach to medically underserved communities, and research to develop and improve cessation treatments.

This bill is supported by over 75 public health, medical, education, parent, civil rights and other organizations.