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Pallone and Shalala Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Address Youth Tobacco Epidemic

Apr 16, 2019
Press Release
“We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) announced the introduction of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 today.  Pallone unveiled the legislation at an event in New Jersey alongside public health advocates.  The new legislation aims to address the sharp rise in use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among young people.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.  According to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America.

“The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco” Pallone said.  “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal.  My legislation also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law.  We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

“If a person does not start using tobacco products when they are young, it is less likely they will start as an adult.  As HHS Secretary during the Clinton Administration, we made great strides in holding tobacco companies accountable for marketing their products to kids, and we reduced the number of people who smoked cigarettes,” Shalala said.  “But now, the use of e-cigarettes, particularly by children, is beginning to undo years of progress we have made.  Our bill, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, takes concrete steps to limit access and the appeal of tobacco products to people under 21.  At the end of the day, our main goal is to reduce the number of kids using tobacco products in the United States.”

The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 includes a number of important provisions to curb the rise of youth tobacco use: 

  • Requires FDA to finalize a rule requiring graphic health warnings for cigarette packages within 12 months;
  • Extends FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all deemed tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years and makes it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age;
  • Directs FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories;
  • Prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol;
  • Provides FDA with authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Instructs FDA to issue a final rule on the regulation of products containing synthetic nicotine or nicotine that is not made or derived from tobacco;
  • Makes it unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 21; and,
  • Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an annual report to Congress on the domestic sales, advertising, and promotional activity of cigarette, cigar, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette manufacturers. 

Pallone and Shalala’s bill has widespread support from public health advocates, including: the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, March of Dimes, and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019, and we applaud Chairman Pallone for his leadership in introducing this comprehensive legislation to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The bill's prohibition on flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, is especially critical to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids with enticing flavors.  Flavored e-cigarettes have driven the youth epidemic, and more than half of youth smokers – including seven out of ten African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes, so it's time to take these products off the market once and for all."

“The American Lung Association is proud to support the ‘Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.’  This legislation puts in place strong steps to help combat our nation’s tobacco epidemic and importantly, prioritizes the health and well-being of our children,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association.  “We thank Chairman Pallone for his leadership in protecting the lung health of our nation’s youth from e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.”

“Tobacco use poses a major public health threat to children and adolescents. As pediatricians, we know that the developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine.  E-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products are threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine, and so we must do everything possible to protect children from these dangerous products,” said Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  “The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 would take several important steps forward to keep tobacco products out of the hands of children, such as banning flavored tobacco products, increasing the purchase age to 21, prohibiting online tobacco sales and placing new restrictions on e-cigarette marketing.  The American Academy of Pediatrics thanks Representative Frank Pallone for his leadership on the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, and looks forward to its swift advancement through Congress.”

“As youth e-cigarette use skyrockets, we must do everything in our power to protect our kids from developing a lifelong addiction to tobacco products,” said Lisa Lacasse, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).  “ACS CAN applauds Chairman Pallone for championing legislation to prevent youth tobacco use by restricting flavors in e-cigarettes, cigars and menthol cigarettes and curtailing the dangerous marketing of these products to kids.”

“Our nation is facing a crisis when it comes to tobacco use among our youth, the data clearly show that e-cigarettes are putting a new generation at risk of addiction to nicotine. In addition to raising the sales age of tobacco to 21, this bill takes essential steps to restrict marketing to youth and remove youth appealing products from the market,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.  “The tobacco industry has a long history of predatory marketing to younger consumers, and this has become more of a threat with e-cigarettes being introduced in thousands of kid-appealing flavors. Eliminating flavored tobacco products, restricting advertising, and prohibiting non-face-to-face sales are essential steps to achieving a tobacco endgame. We are grateful to Chairman Pallone for introducing this important legislation.”

Section-by-section available HERE.

Bill text available HERE.