House Lawmakers Vote to Ban All Flavored Tobacco

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House Lawmakers Vote to Ban All Flavored Tobacco

Tobacco legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill which in part prohibits all flavored tobacco products. However, there are doubts the U.S. Senate will take up the legislation.  

On Feb. 28, members of the House passed H.R. 2339, known as the "Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019" by a 213-195 vote. According to NACS, the measure passed with 208 votes by Democrats and five by Republicans.

The legislation includes provisions banning traditional flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco. The association opposed the measure.

Currently, a companion bill for H.R. 2339 has not been introduced in the Senate, and it is unlikely that the Senate will consider the legislation since the chamber is controlled by Republicans, NACS added.

According to the association, many of the 17 Democratic lawmakers who voted against it opposed including menthol cigarettes over concerns that the provision targeted communities of color.

"H.R. 2339 does many things with the goal to reduce youth tobacco use, like providing resources for a substantive public awareness campaign to educate about the dangers of tobacco use and reducing access to online purchases of flavored tobacco products," said U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) in an op-ed in The Hill.

"However, this legislation does not treat all tobacco products equally, carving out an exemption for one flavored product, premium cigars preferred by white smokers. A ban that makes an exception for one flavor — premium cigars — while banning menthol puts black lives at risk," she added.

According to Clarke, 90 percent of black smokers user menthol products. "A ban that targets menthol products but ignores other premium tobacco products unduly burdens the black community. This asymmetrical ban feels more like a targeted attack than a value-neutral health care policy decision," she said. "In effect, white adult smokers would see little difference in their lives after this ban while black smokers could face even more sweeping harassment from law enforcement if the hint of menthol smoke can justify a stop."

Looking at the numbers, flavored tobacco products could create a black market. As NACS pointed out, menthol cigarettes account for roughly 30 percent of cigarette sales; flavored cigars account for 50 percent of cigar sales; and flavored smokeless tobacco products account for 86 percent of smokeless tobacco sales in convenience stores.