Lawmakers Seek To Curb Tobacco Use Among Youth

Lawmakers Seek To Curb Tobacco Use Among Youth


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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So as to address a sharp rise in use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among young people, two House Democrats have introduced the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.  According to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America, according to the lawmakers behind the new legislation, Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.).

Pallone is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Shalala served as secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration.

“The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco,” Pallone said.  “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal.  My legislation also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law. We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 includes a number of provisions to curb the rise of youth tobacco use:

  • Would require FDA to finalize a rule requiring graphic health warnings for cigarette packages within 12 months;
  • Would extend FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all deemed tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years and makes it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age;
  • Would direct FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories;
  • Would prohibit all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol;
  • Would provide FDA with authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Would instruct FDA to issue a final rule on the regulation of products containing synthetic nicotine or nicotine that is not made or derived from tobacco;
  • Would make it unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 21; and,
  • Would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an annual report to Congress on the domestic sales, advertising, and promotional activity of cigarette, cigar, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette manufacturers.

Pallone and Shalala’s bill has widespread support from public health advocates, including: the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, March of Dimes, and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019, and we applaud Chairman Pallone for his leadership in introducing this comprehensive legislation to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The bill’s prohibition on flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, is especially critical to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids with enticing flavors.  Flavored e-cigarettes have driven the youth epidemic, and more than half of youth smokers – including seven out of 10 African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes, so it’s time to take these products off the market once and for all.”

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