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 Shalala'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel Stephanie Murphy won't run for Senate seat in Florida next year 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 ClarkeHouse passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks Haiti Caucus: Forging path out of crisis will not be quick, but necessary to avoid false 'democracy' US lawmakers express shock at Haitian president's assassination 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 ButterfieldBlack Caucus presses Democratic leaders to expedite action on voting rights Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack Lobbying world MORE (N.C.), Lizzie Fletcher (Texas), Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Five things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries MORE (Ohio), Jared Golden (Maine), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? The US's investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it What should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? MORE (Okla.), Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonHouse ethics panel decides against probe after Hank Johnson civil disobedience Jackson Lee is third CBC member in three weeks to be arrested protesting for voting rights 'Good Trouble': Black caucus embraces civil disobedience MORE (Ga.), Conor Lamb (Pa.), Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonWestern states at risk of unprecedented heat as wildfire season begins We must increase access to affordable mortgages for minority borrowers LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (Fla.), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill Overnight Defense: House Armed Services starts defense bill markups | Two Navy sailors die of COVID-19 | Pentagon reimposes mask mandate in some places Misled condemnation of the Lebanese Armed Forces will help Hezbollah MORE (Va.), Ben McAdams (Utah), A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinEnd the practice of hitting children in public schools Political disenfranchisement is fueling environmental injustice White House names members of environmental justice panel MORE (Va.), Collin PetersonCollin Clark Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE (Minn.), Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondBiden walks fine line with Fox News Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms Democrats look to flip script on GOP 'defund the police' attacks MORE (La.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Democrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Moderate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins MORE (Va.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHouse members will huddle Friday to plot next steps on Jan. 6 probe Budowsky: Liz Cheney, a Reagan Republican, and Pelosi, Ms. Democrat, seek Jan. 6 truth The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 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 RushHouse passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps | Manchin to back controversial public lands nominee | White House details environmental justice plan Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps MORE (D-Ill.)

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeePhotos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris House ethics panel decides against probe after Hank Johnson civil disobedience Jackson Lee is third CBC member in three weeks to be arrested protesting for voting rights 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Overnight Health Care: Average daily COVID infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says | US reaches 70 percent vaccination goal a month after Biden's target | White House says CDC can't renew eviction ban Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE’s advisers said Thursday they would recommend he veto it in its current form.