Bill H.R. 2339 passed 213-195, mostly through the support of Democrats although some Democrats voted against it and some Republicans voted for the measure. The Bill, the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act”, was sponsored by President Clinton’s former Health and Human Services secretary, Donna Shalala and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone.
The Bill aims to ban all flavoured products, including mint and menthol. Many opponents to the Bill argued that, as they favour menthol products, this constituted a direct attack on African Americans.
Democrat Yvette Clarke said: “This legislation has dire, unintended consequences for African Americans. Law enforcement would have an additional reason to stop and frisk menthol tobacco users because menthol would be considered illegal under this ban.”
Supporters of the Bill countered that the reason most menthol products are used by targeted African Americans was due to the “predatory marketing” of the tobacco industry.
“This legislation will address the urgent e-cigarette epidemic that's undermining the progress made in reducing youth tobacco use,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We had all of the tobacco-free kids there, lined up in their t-shirts. These little children know better than some of us in this chamber how dangerous these e-cigarettes are to our young children, especially those in middle school, who are so very young and we see evidence of.”
The Washington Examiner reported on the vote by stating: “House Democrats go full nanny state and pass overkill vape flavor ban”.
The article said of the “youth vaping crisis”, that it is “an overhyped and exaggerated disaster led by misleading media reports. Yes, teenagers increasingly use vaping products, and that’s not exactly ideal. But vaping is 95% healthier than traditional cigarette smoking, and almost all of the much-hyped “vaping-related deaths” come from black-market vaping products, which will only become more prevalent as legal products are restricted. Plus, current law already makes teenage vaping 100% illegal.”
President Trump’s office responded: “The Administration is encouraged by legislative efforts to protect American youth from the harms of addiction and unsafe tobacco products, and it also acknowledges that H.R. 2339 exempts premium cigars, which have comparatively lower youth usage rates, from certain regulatory burdens. Unfortunately, however, this bill contains provisions that are unsupported by the available evidence regarding harm reduction and American tobacco use habits and another provision that raises constitutional concerns. Accordingly, the Administration cannot support H.R. 2339 in its current form.”
“The Administration cannot support H.R. 2339’s counterproductive efforts to restrict access to products that may provide a less harmful alternative to millions of adults who smoke combustible cigarettes” - the Executive Office of the President
“The Administration cannot support H.R. 2339’s counterproductive efforts to restrict access to products that may provide a less harmful alternative to millions of adults who smoke combustible cigarettes. This includes the bill’s prohibition of menthol e-liquids, which available evidence indicates are used relatively rarely by youth. It also includes the bill’s approach to remote retail sales. At this time, problems surrounding such sales should be addressed through the application of age verification technologies rather than, as this bill would do, prohibiting such sales entirely.”
The Executive Office statement continued: “The bill takes the wrong approach to tobacco regulation. Rather than continuing to focus on the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Congress should implement President Trump’s Budget proposal to create a new, more directly accountable agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to focus on tobacco regulation. This new agency would be led by a Senate-confirmed Director and would have greater capacity to respond to the growing complexity of tobacco products and respond effectively to tobacco-related public health concerns. If presented to the President in its current form, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”