House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban

House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban

A proposal to ban flavored e-cigarette products advanced out of a House health panel on Wednesday.

Democrats, public health groups and some experts argue that flavors such as fruit and mint appeal to kids and have gotten a new generation addicted to nicotine.

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“It’s a very significant public health concern that these products are appealing to kids at unprecedented rates,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneFederal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

In addition to banning manufacturers from adding nontobacco flavors to e-cigarette liquids, the bill, sponsored by Pallone and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly Treasury has not disbursed B in airline support: oversight panel We can't afford to let local news die MORE (D-Fla.), would raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and ban online sales of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

There has been no announcement on when the Energy and Commerce committee will take up the bill. But if it passes, the next step would be a vote on the House floor. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE and the Department of Health and Human Services announced in September that they would also pursue a flavor ban to combat rising youth vaping rates.

But Democrats worry Trump is backing off the ban after facing backlash from pro-vaping advocates and conservative groups.

Pallone noted Trump’s Monday tweet announcing a meeting with representatives from the e-cigarette industry, medical professionals and state representatives to find a “compromise” on the issue.

“We have been waiting for weeks now for the administration to follow through on the president’s promise from September to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes, and I’m concerned by the delay,” he said.

“I find this unacceptable and all the more reason we have to move forward with this legislation,” he added.

Criticism of Trump’s plan from Congressional Republicans has been muted.

But the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Top Commerce Republicans grill TikTok parent company Action on driverless cars hits speed bump as Congress focuses on pandemic MORE (Ore.), came out strongly against the flavor ban in the Democrats’ bill.

“Cracking down on youth tobacco use is a laudable goal, and we are committed to working you you to stop this epidemic,” he said.

“There is another agenda at play here: to completely rid the market of all flavored tobacco products. Smoking is harmful, and we should do what we can to prevent use by children, but I think eliminating consumer choice for law-abiding adults is unnecessary and will lead to unintended consequences,” he added.

A Walden spokesperson said they would wait until Trump’s plan is released to comment on it. 

Some Republicans on the committee also argued service members should be exempt from the provision raising the tobacco age to 21.

Others objected that the bill did not address the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses tied to illicit products containing THC and vitamin E acetate.

The bill has 89 co-sponsors, including one Republican: Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingOn The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Bipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief MORE (N.Y.).

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 a study conducted by government researchers.