The U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee recommended Tuesday legislation that would ban all non-tobacco flavorings for tobacco products.
H.R. 2339, titled “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act,” would tighten the sale and marketing of traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and cigars, including raising the federal minimum age for purchasing from 18 to 21.
It also would provide the Food and Drug Administration with another $100 million annually — to $812 million — in manufacturer-paid user fees for administrative costs, and require the FDA to issue a final rule requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising by the court-ordered deadline of March 15.
The bill, if passed, would go into effect two years after it is enacted. It is not clear what the next step is for the bill.
Several HR2339 supporters said the legislation is crucial and necessary, particularly if the Trump administration — as reported in several media outlets — backs away from the pledge the president made in September to raise the minimum age and eliminate most non-tobacco flavorings.
White House officials have mentioned recently retaining menthol and mint flavorings for traditional and e-cigarettes.
“This bill marks the first time that a full committee of Congress has voted to prohibit all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“This is a critical step to stop tobacco companies from continuing to target and addict kids with enticing flavors, as they have done for far too long.”
Stefanie Miller, an analyst with Sandhills Strategy, said “we continue to think it is unlikely that a Tobacco 21-only bill could pass Congress without Democrats working to include other provisions as well, such as banning nicotine altogether, banning menthol-flavored cigarettes, banning all flavors of e-cigarettes except for tobacco-flavored products, and banning all so-called ‘pod-like’ e-cigarette systems.”
Citigroup analyst Adam Spielman said that “the more lenient the White House, the more aggressive we think Congress will feel compelled to act.”
“(The president) reversed his position two weeks ago after becoming aware of the proposal’s unpopularity among adult vapers. We now expect an information vacuum; that the administration now has no effective policy on nicotine, and it is uncertain when that will change.”
“Meanwhile, a handful of states are imposing their own flavor bans, and momentum is building to ban under-21s from buying tobacco.”
Spielman said Altria Group Inc. is likely to be most affected by the Trump administration backing away from tighter FDA regulations.
In December, Altria spent $12.8 billion to buy a 35% stake in Juul Labs Inc., maker of the top-selling U.S. electronic cigarette. On Nov. 1, Altria reported taking a non-cash, pre-tax impairment charge of $4.5 billion related to its Juul ownership stake. That places the fair value of the investment at $8.3 billion, down 35%.
“Altria is worst affected because its affiliate Juul has said it will unilaterally withdraw from mint, which used to account for 70% of its volumes,” Spielman said.
“We had expected that all evapor companies would be forced to follow suit, but that now looks unlikely.”
The original Vuse version by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. is the No. 2 selling e-cigarette. Its current flavors are tobacco, menthol, mint, rich tobacco, chai, crema, fusion, tropical, mixed berry, melon and nectar.
Reynolds American Inc. spokeswoman Kaelan Hollon said in September that the manufacturer “shares President Trump’s concern that some flavors, such as those resembling ‘kid friendly’ food products, may play a role in increasing youth appeal and that marketing activities should not be directed to youth.”
Fontem Ventures, maker of blu eCigs brand, continues to sell sweeter flavors, including honeymoon, neon dream, blue ice and melon time.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said that “we are encouraged to learn that the collective voices of the vaping community and harm reduction advocates are being heard by the White House and President Trump.”
“Faced with a highly motivated group of small business owners and recovering smokers who became fired up to vote in 2020, we have been able to show Washington D.C. that sensible and targeted regulations should be attempted before resorting to prohibition.”