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How will the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 (H.R. 2339) have an impact on your business? H.R. 2339passed the House of Representatives by a largely party-line vote of 213-195. 208 Democrats and five Republicans voted for H.R. 2339, while 177 Republicans, 17 Democrats, and one Independent voted against the bill. Seven Democrats and 15 Republicans abstained from voting.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sponsored the bill along with 126 other cosponsors. One of the most high-profile cosponsors was Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who served as the Health and Human Services secretary in the Bill Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001. She has beena vocal critic of the industry. She said, “Vaping is the public health crisis of the 21st century.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who is also a co-chair of the 2020 Joe Biden presidential campaign, voted against H.R. 2339. Biden is a vocal critic of vaping and has suggested that he will take a hardline stance against the industry in line with his Democratic colleagues. Another notable abstention from voting is another Biden supporter, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC). Clyburn is also the House Majority Whip.
Across the aisle, Republicans and some Democrats voted no on H.R. 2339. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who voted no on the bill, said that the Democrats’ stance on vaping was inconsistent with their stance on marijuana legalization."Denouncing smoking tobacco in all forms while embracing the (decriminalization) or legalization of marijuana is at best inconsistent when considering long-term health outcomes,'' he said.
One interesting no vote came from Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). She voted against the bill because of its effect on African-American smokers and vapers.“White adult smokers would see little difference in their lives after this ban, while black smokers could face even more sweeping harassment from law enforcement if the hint of menthol smoke can justify a stop by a police officer,” she said. Rep. Clarke’s district is majority African-American, and African-American smokers and vapers prefer menthol products. Rep. Clarke further solidified her stance on the issue. “A ban that targets menthol products but ignores other premium tobacco products unduly burdens the black community.”
More Democrats than Republicans voted no on H.R. 2339, and there may be more questions going forward as politicians continue to learn more and more about the industry. A notable abstention is Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is also running in the 2020 presidential race. She did not vote on H.R. 2339.
The Trump administration responds
Shortly after the vote, the Trump administrationreleased a statement that they will oppose H.R. 2339. “The Administration opposes H.R. 2339. This bill contains provisions that are unsupported by the available evidence regarding harm reduction and American tobacco use habits and another provision that raises constitutional concerns,” the statement read.
The statement also addressed many concerns raised by the vaping industry and vapers. Issues such as T21, use of vaping as a harm reduction method, and remote retail sales were addressed in the policy statement. They also clarified that age verification techniques should be used more often in line with T21. “Problems surrounding such sales should be addressed through the application of age verification techniques rather than, as this bill would do, prohibiting such sales entirely.”
The statement brings up the administration’s proposal to spin tobacco products into its own agency. This yet-to-be-named agency will be under the Department of Health and Human Services and will require Senate confirmation. Currently, the role of the head of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) is under the FDA and does not require Senate confirmation. “The bill takes the wrong approach to tobacco regulation. Rather than continuing to focus on the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Congress should implement President Trump’s budget proposal to create a new, more directly accountable agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to focus on tobacco regulation. This new agency would be led by a Senate-confirmed Director and would have a greater capacity to respond to the growing complexity of tobacco products and respond effectively to tobacco-related public health concerns.”
The bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but if it does make it to President Trump’s desk for signature, his advisors have recommended that he veto the bill.
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