Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today in support of H.R. 2339, the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020:
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of H.R. 2339, the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020. This bill provides a comprehensive approach to address the youth tobacco epidemic that has unfolded before our eyes in recent years.
The numbers are disturbing. About 6.2 million American middle and high school students used some type of tobacco product last year. And one in every three high school students have used a tobacco product in the last 30 days.
These numbers should alarm us all, especially as we have worked so hard and invested so much to ensure the next generation doesn’t face the same type of tobacco-related disease and death as those that have preceded them.
It’s clear the tobacco industry has employed the same tactics that they have used for decades to hook young people on new versions of their products in order to generate new customers that will be addicted for life.
E-cigarette manufacturers like JUUL have used slick product designs, glossy advertisements, and sweet flavors to appeal to kids. The rapid rise of products like these have reversed the progress we have made in slowing youth tobacco use. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that e-cigarette use by high school students increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018.
Young people have said that kid-friendly flavors like bubblegum, chocolate, cotton candy, and mango are the driving force behind why they said they began using e-cigarettes in the first place. There is also evidence that kids perceive flavored tobacco products to be less harmful than non-flavored alternatives. Flavors mask the harshness and flavor of the tobacco causing young and adult smokers to smoke more, not less.
But e-cigarettes are not the only contributor to the youth tobacco epidemic. Research has shown that menthol flavored cigarettes have contributed to the increased number of young people smoking. In 2019, nearly half of middle and high school students who were currently smoking used menthol cigarettes.
Congressional action today is necessary because President Trump broke his promise to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes. The Administration’s proposal created giant loopholes – leaving the myriad of disposable and open-tank e-cigarette systems that continue to attract kids on the market, as well as menthol flavored products.
While it was important for us to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from age 18 to 21, the surge in youth tobacco usage can’t be reversed just by increasing the age alone.
In order to fully combat this crisis, we need a multi-prong approach that tackles all of the reasons and ways kids are using these products. H.R. 2339 is the solution we need.
It prohibits all flavors that are so popular among kids. It updates and extends existing marketing and advertising restrictions for combustible tobacco products to all tobacco products including e-cigarettes. It restricts the purchase of most tobacco products to only face-to-face settings. And makes it explicitly unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette product to individuals under the age of 21.
It also invests $2 billion in federal resources in cessation support prevention in medically underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities; supplying tobacco cessation therapies and counseling in community health centers, and funding new strategies for cessation of menthol tobacco products.
We are proud to have the support of more than one hundred organizations including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the NAACP, and the National Medical Association.
Madam Speaker, we must take decisive action in order to prevent losing the next generation of our kids to a lifetime of nicotine addiction. We must pass H.R. 2339, and I urge all of colleagues to join us in supporting this bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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