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 ShalalaTrump coronavirus response seen as threat to CDC confidence House Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package CBS All Access launches animated 'Tooning Out the News' series 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 ClarkeOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Dems 'frustrated' by coronavirus response after briefing | Mulvaney claims press covering outbreak to take Trump down | Pence bolsters task force House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing 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 approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Biden cinches support from third NC House Democrat MORE (N.C.), Lizzie Fletcher (Texas), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeClyburn urges Biden to pick black woman as running mate: 'African American women need to be rewarded' for loyalty Clyburn takes victory lap after Biden wins big on Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (Ohio), Jared Golden (Maine), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornOvernight Energy: Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns | New EPA order limits telework post-pandemic | Lawmakers urge help for oil and gas workers Bipartisan lawmakers urge assistance for oil and gas workers Overnight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops MORE (Okla.), Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonProgressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union MORE (Ga.), Conor Lamb (Pa.), Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonHouse approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Lobbying world Florida Rep. Charlie Crist endorses Biden MORE (Fla.), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops 5 states to watch on Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (Va.), Ben McAdams (Utah), A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinHouse approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain MORE (Va.), Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonSNAP, airlines among final hurdles to coronavirus stimulus deal Pelosi: House 'not prepared' to vote remotely on coronavirus relief bill Lone Democrat to oppose impeachment will seek reelection MORE (Minn.), Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHillicon Valley: House passes key surveillance bill | Paul, Lee urge Trump to kill FISA deal | White House seeks help from tech in coronavirus fight | Dem urges Pence to counter virus misinformation Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency Government report offers guidelines to prevent nationwide cyber catastrophe MORE (La.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerJuan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal Security contractor Erik Prince reportedly recruited ex-spies to help Project Veritas infiltrate liberal groups Hillicon Valley: Barr offers principles to prevent online child exploitation | Facebook removes misleading Trump census ads | House passes bill banning TSA use of TikTok MORE (Va.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: HHS hit by cyberattack amid coronavirus outbreak | Senators urge FCC to shore up internet access for students | Sanders ramps up Facebook ad spending | Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline House Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline Hillicon Valley: Internet providers vow to maintain service amid coronavirus | Pentagon looks to revisit 'war cloud' decision | Gates steps down from Microsoft board 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 RushBobby Rush wins Illinois House primary Illinois governor endorses Biden one day before primary Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins MORE (D-Ill.)

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeLobbying world House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach 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 TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE’s advisers said Thursday they would recommend he veto it in its current form.