Tobacco and Vaping Bill Advances to Full Committee for Consideration

Bill would ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

November 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee marked up legislation, H.R. 2339, the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019,” and voted by voice to advance the bill to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.

The bill sponsored by Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) was one of four bills the Democrat-led panel considered yesterday.

The “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019” would:

  • Increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
  • Prohibit flavors of all tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products.
  • Prohibit remote, non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products.
  • Make it unlawful to market, advertise or promote any e-cigarette product to individuals under the age of 21. This would include requiring manufacturers of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to be held to the same advertising and sales requirements currently applied to the sale, distribution, and use of traditional cigarettes.
  • Authorize FDA to collect user fees from manufacturers of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and increase the total amount of fees collected by $100 million.

While the bill received support from all Democrats on the subcommittee, some Republicans expressed concern over certain provisions, such as the flavor ban for all products and the graphic health warning labels on cigarette packages.

During the markup, House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) stated, “I think eliminating consumer choice for law-abiding adults unnecessary and will lead to unintended consequences.”

NACS opposes the provision of the bill banning menthol cigarettes because it would undoubtedly lead to the creation of a black market, since the menthol market accounts for roughly 30 percent of cigarette sales today. In his statement. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) raised similar concerns about a potential black market for menthol e-cigarettes if it is included in flavor ban.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) agreed that a ban on menthol cigarettes will promote a black market. However, Rep. Butterfield suggested a full ban on all tobacco products. “The problem is nicotine, not menthol,” he said.

An amendment was offered by Ranking Member Walden that would require FDA to consider the impact of a flavor ban on the black market when the Agency is reviewing premarket approval applications for e-cigarettes. The amendment failed because Democrats criticized it as a way to keep flavors on the market.

Both Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chairman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) expressed concern about the FDA’s delay in issuing guidance that would remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

H.R. 2339 now advances to the full Energy and Commerce Committee where it is expected to be marked up in the coming weeks.

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