The DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, chaired by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), will hold a meeting to mark-up several bills this morning at 9:30 am, including a bill that would ban the sale and purchase of all flavored tobacco products.
The Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021 bans the sale and purchase of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, in the District and also bans the sale of electronic smoking devices within ¼ of a mile of a middle or high school.
“There’s no question flavored tobacco products have been used to hook a new generation on smoking. This isn’t by accident: it has been a focused and intentional effort by the tobacco industry to get new customers – especially communities of color – addicted under the guise that e-cigarettes are somehow safer than traditional tobacco products or that flavored products are ‘cool’,” said Councilmember Charles Allen. “During our public hearing, witness after witness – including dozens of young people and community leaders – spoke about Big Tobacco’s very deliberate marketing to Black Washingtonians, the LGBTQ community, women, and young people. This is not only a health issue but an equity and social justice issue to me.”
Councilmember Allen continued: “I promise you, these companies don’t care what happens to their customers, who are our neighbors and our children, in 5, 10, 15, 20 years, when the use of e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco leads to serious health consequences or death. They care about profits. We know tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death nationally, contributing to more deaths annually than everyone who died in the U.S. from COVID-19 last year – and that includes 800 of our residents every year. This bill will save lives, especially young lives: there are 7,000 children alive in the District today who, based on our current smoking levels, will die from smoking without action.”
A driving concern behind the bill is the startling rise in the use of flavored tobacco products, including through electronic smoking devices, among the District’s middle and high school age students over the last several years. At the Committee’s hearing, the D.C. Department of Health cited a 13 percent rise in the number of young people who were getting hooked on e-cigarettes, and studies have shown that 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students used e-cigarettes last year. Dozens of District students testified about widespread use among their peers and its dire consequences. This rise in popularity of flavored tobacco isn’t isolated to the District – and many other jurisdictions have passed or introduced similar legislation in recent years in response. The federal government is working to keep up with state and local action, and in April, the FDA announced its intent to move forward on a menthol ban.
The bill moves to a vote with support from a wide range of advocates, organizations, and residents, including Flavors Hook Kids, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the D.C. Department of Health, D.C. NAACP, Howard University Cancer Center, Attorney General Karl Racine, multiple ANCs in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8, and education leaders, including multiple members of D.C.’s State Board of Education. The bill was introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, along with Committee Chairperson Charles Allen and Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Vincent C. Gray, Christina Henderson, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Elissa Silverman, and Robert C. White, Jr.
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 9:10 am
Press Contact: Erik Salmi, 202-445-0834