Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping

Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping
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Pressure is building on Congress to act on rising youth vaping rates amid inaction from President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE.

House Democrats plan to pass a bill by year’s end that would ban flavored e-cigarette products they say helped to spark a teen vaping epidemic. 

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Democrats found themselves in rare agreement with Trump when he vowed to clear the market of those products two months ago, but he has since backed off after facing a backlash from vapers, conservative groups and the industry. 

“This White House has been co-opted by the tobacco industry,” Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise Overnight Defense: Trump cancels presser, cuts short NATO trip | Viral video catches leaders appearing to gossip about Trump | Dem witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses | Trump reportedly mulling more troops in Middle East Pelosi to Democrats: 'Are you ready?' MORE (D-Fla.), the co-sponsor of the bill, told The Hill on Tuesday. 

“We’re going to pass a comprehensive bill. We’re not going to compromise,” said Shalala, who served as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department during the Clinton administration. 

Passing such a bill is likely to be a challenge — particularly in a divided Congress consumed by impeachment.

Shalala’s bill, which passed out of a key committee Tuesday and will get a vote on the House floor by the end of the year, would ban flavors in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes; raise the tobacco-purchasing age to 21; and ban all online tobacco sales.

Advocates are hopeful the measure, or portions of it, will make it into a year-end spending bill — which itself is the subject of pained negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

If the bill does get out of the House, it faces an uncertain path in the Senate, where the Republican majority typically eschews government regulation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ky.) has offered legislation that would raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21— a proposal Trump has also suggested. 

Asked whether Congress should pursue a flavors ban, McConnell declined to answer. 

“I’m going to focus … on raising the age to 21. That’s something everybody could agree on, something we ought to accomplish quickly,” he said. 

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Texas) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (D-Calif.) have offered legislation to require age verification for all online purchases of e-cigarettes. It would also require that an adult with an ID sign for the delivery. 

A Cornyn aide told The Hill he plans to push for Senate passage of the bill “soon.” A similar measure sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroPowerful House panel to hold 'Medicare for All' hearing next week Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court sets date for Louisiana abortion case | Border Patrol ignored calls to vaccinate migrants against flu | DC sues Juul Border Patrol ignored recommendation to vaccinate migrants against the flu MORE (D-Conn.) passed the House last month. 

The percentage of teenagers who are vaping has doubled in the past two years, according to data released in September. 

An estimated 27.5 percent of high school students, and 10.5 percent of middle school students, said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month, according to one of the studies conducted by government researchers.

Anti-tobacco advocates like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have pushed both the Trump administration and Congress to ban flavors to curb youth vaping rates. 

But they’ve run into opposition from conservative free-market groups, industry and pro-vaping advocates. 

Reporting from The New York Times and other outlets suggests Trump was swayed by the #ivapeivote campaign, in which vapers said they would not vote for the president in 2020 if he pursued a flavor ban. 

But members of Congress acknowledge there is more they could be doing to curb youth vaping rates. 

“They said two months ago they were going to do something about the flavors,” DeLauro told The Hill Tuesday. 

“This is a public health crisis, and we will take a look at what it is that we can do.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Statesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race MORE (R-Utah), who is sponsoring a Senate bill to ban flavored e-cigarettes, asked last week:, “Why haven’t we done anything about flavors?”

“If it were to pass, my presumption is we’d have a dramatic impact on reducing the number of kids that get addicted to nicotine,” he added. 

“We are looking for every vehicle we can to get a ban on vaping flavors,” Romney told The Hill on Monday.

Nathaniel Weixel contributed.