On Friday, February 28, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed HR 2339 – Youth Tobacco Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 passed by 18 votes. HR2339 Act not only would ban flavored products but would impact other tobacco products such as hooka, menthol cigarettes and the diy vape synthetic nicotine. HR2339 also would prohibit online sales. It will now be sent to the US Senate for review and debate. The US Senate has their own version of vape ban bills such as the Mitt Romney’s sponsored bill called Ending New Nicotine Dependencies; the wording is seemingly a direct attack on vape products and the vaping community.
The House HR2330 vote split down by party lines with few notable exceptions. Few Republicans supported this bill keeping with their customary ideology of support for small business and less government interference. Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, was able to rally great support from the House Democrats despite last minute misgivings from the Black Caucus including freshman like Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez that the menthol flavor ban would adversely affect their communities.
The President’s View
The big news was the Administration Policy Statement opposing HR2339 on the grounds of that it does not support “harm reduction” and “raises constitutional concerns” from the President’s office on February 27, 2020. The letter stated that the President would veto this bill should it make it to his desk. This is unlikely due to the strong Republican makeup of the Senate. As stated above, the Senate has its own anti-vape legislation to debate and vote. Would a Presidential veto extend to that bill or any amalgam of both bills?
It is also interesting to note that the President’s policy statement includes the usage of the term “harm reduction”. Harm Reduction has been a different approach to traditional cold turkey quit methods for addiction issues that have long been the standard for medical and advocacy community. Harm Reduction is a natural fit for those tobacco users trying to quit and/or cut down usage but have had low quit success rates and high relapse rates especially during times of stress and woe with traditional quit methods. This President’ss official acknowledgement of alternative quit methods continues to support his desire to strike a balance between saving the lives of smokers and ex-smokers and any increased usage of adult products by youth.
The President’s concern for criminality and black markets was not overtly stated in the policy statement. However, the President Executive does raise business concerns with regards to HR2339 advertising and marketing prohibitions. The Administration stated that these restrictions may not pass freedom of speech constitutional guarantees.
The Consumer’s View
The vape community has been very active this week in monitoring and advocating for a NAY vote to this bill. This activity spurred phone calls, emails and social media posts to House Representatives filled with personal accounts, studies and statistics and the umbrella slogan We Vape We Vote used by pro-vape constituents. Many could predict the outcome but nevertheless, decided to make their voices heard.
The advocacy work continues at the state and local levels while the anti-vape base could use the all-encompassing HR2339 to insist that local anti-vape legislation be even more draconian. It is important to continue pro-vape advocacy by the entire vaping community, young, old, democrat, republican, black and white. Getting out of our comfort levels and echo chambers to advocate for our individual and other’s personal freedoms is a call to political life by the founding fathers.