House Dems unveil legislation aimed at curbing youth tobacco use

Two Democratic House lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled legislation aimed at tamping down the uptick of tobacco and e-cigarette use in young people.

Under the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act  — spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit House Dems unveil legislation aimed at curbing youth tobacco use MORE (D-Fla.), the former secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration — the government would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years of age. The bill would also make it unlawful for companies to market their cigarette and e-cigarette products to those under 21.

Additionally, the legislation would require tobacco companies to include “graphic health warnings” on cigarette advertisements and packages and extend Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations pertaining to cigarette sales and distribution to include smokeless and e-cigarette products. Non-face-to-face tobacco sales would also be barred if the bill is signed into law.

Proponents of the bill cite statistics from a 2018 report from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing there has been a 78-percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students.

“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 in a statement.  “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal.”

Shalala noted statistics show adults are less likely to use tobacco products if they did not start using them when they were young.

“Our bill, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, takes concrete steps to limit access and the appeal of tobacco products to people under 21,” she said in a statement.

“At the end of the day, our main goal is to reduce the number of kids using tobacco products in the United States.”