House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products

A ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco products passed the House on Friday but divided Democrats, with some saying it unfairly targets African Americans.

The bill, which passed 213-195, was sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaJohn Kerry hosting virtual campaign events for Biden The sad spectacle of Trump's enablers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly MORE (D-Fla.), a Health and Human Services secretary under former President Clinton. It is intended to curb the rise of youth vaping rates by banning non-tobacco flavors such as mint and mango that public health experts say lure children into smoking.

It would also ban menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately used by African Americans after years of targeted marketing by tobacco companies.

While most Democrats supported the measure, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) voted against the bill, worrying it could give police a way to target African Americans.

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“This legislation has dire, unintended consequences for African Americans,” said Rep. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeYvette Clarke wins NY House primary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Wooing voters, Trump autographs Arizona border wall Bowman holds double-digit lead over Engel in NY primary MORE (D-N.Y.), a member of the CBC. “Law enforcement would have an additional reason to stop and frisk menthol tobacco users because menthol would be considered illegal under this ban.” 
 
She also took issue with the fact that the bill exempts premium cigars favored by white people but took aim at products used by black people. 
 
"The message that we're sending is that, you know, for poorer communities — communities with less franchise that are gonna be over-policed — we're going to add an extra burden to them,” Clarke told The Hill on Thursday. 
 
A total of 17 Democrats including Clarke voted against the bill: Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldHouse passes police reform bill that faces dead end in Senate Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel House to pass sweeping police reform legislation MORE (N.C.), Lizzie Fletcher (Texas), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Ethics Committee reviewing Rep. Sanford Bishop's campaign spending The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's public standing sags after Floyd protests MORE (Ohio), Jared Golden (Maine), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornModerate House Democrats introduce bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting coronavirus pandemic House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Terry Neese, Stephanie Bice head to Oklahoma GOP runoff MORE (Okla.), Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonHouse passes police reform bill that faces dead end in Senate House to pass sweeping police reform legislation OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change MORE (Ga.), Conor Lamb (Pa.), Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's virtual campaign swings through Florida House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Lobbying world MORE (Fla.), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Republican Scott Taylor wins Virginia primary, to face Elaine Luria in rematch National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus MORE (Va.), Ben McAdams (Utah), A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinSanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 House Democrats seek to codify environmental inequality mapping tool  House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs MORE (Va.), Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonHouse approves statehood for DC in 232-180 vote House to pass sweeping police reform legislation From farmers to grocery store clerks, thank you to all of our food system MORE (Minn.), Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondBlack Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Gaetz tweets photo of teenage adopted son after hearing battle Tensions flare between Reps. Cedric Richmond and Matt Gaetz during police reform hearing MORE (La.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerBipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to limit further expansion of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Trade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Virginia GOP to pick House nominee after candidate misses filing deadline MORE (Va.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonState legislatures consider US Capitol's Confederate statues House eyes votes to remove symbols of Confederates from Capitol House to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling MORE (Miss.).
 
Concern over the bill grew this week when the the American Civil Liberties Union, which has a strong pull in the Democratic Party, circulated a letter outlining its opposition.

“We hope we can work together to avoid repetitions of policies that are intended to protect youth and communities of color, but instead only further engrain systemic criminalization and racism,” the letter reads.
 
But other members of the CBC noted Friday that tobacco companies have targeted African Americans for years in their “predatory” marketing of menthol products, putting them at risk for smoking-related disease and death.

“Smoking cigarettes, especially menthol flavored cigarettes, has resulted in approximately 45,000 African American deaths each and every year,” said Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushFauci: Institutional racism playing role in disproportionate coronavirus impact on Black community Bobby Rush likens Chicago police union to KKK: 'Racist body of criminal lawlessness' Rep. Bobby Rush says Chicago officers lounged in his office as nearby stores were looted MORE (D-Ill.)

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeTexas Democrats call for new stay-at-home order Local reparations initiatives can lead to national policy remedying racial injustice House to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling MORE (D-Texas), another member of the CBC, said on the House floor, “I’m not here to target people of color. I’m here to save lives.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAs coronavirus surges, Trump tries to dismantle healthcare for millions Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move MORE (D-Calif.), aware of the opposition from some members of the CBC, touted support for the bill on Thursday from the NAACP, the National Black Nurses Association and the National Medical Association, which represents African American doctors and their patients.

African Americans are much more likely to use menthol cigarettes than white smokers, and are more likely to die from smoking-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Democrats hope to pass the bill to present a contrast to the Trump administration’s approach to youth vaping rates. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began enforcing a limited ban earlier this month on flavored pod-products, like those sold by Juul, with exemptions for menthol and tobacco flavors. It also exempted open-tank and disposable e-cigarettes.

The bill would also ban online sales of e-cigarettes and restrict advertising and marketing of those products. 

“We need to ban flavors across the board because that’s what masks the nicotine and makes people think that it’s OK,” Pallone said.

An estimated 5.4 million middle and high school students were using e-cigarettes in 2019, according to government data. 
 
Leading public health groups that support the legislation, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, argue the bans represent the best way to tamp down rising youth vaping rates.

Public health experts have argued for years that menthol cigarettes should be banned. Menthol helps reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke, making it harder to quit, experts say. 
 
While the U.S. has made great strides in reducing smoking rates, smoking is still responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC. 
 
The Senate is unlikely to consider the bill, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE’s advisers said Thursday they would recommend he veto it in its current form.