WASHINGTON – On Friday, February 28, 2020, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2339 — the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), to provide a comprehensive approach to address the youth tobacco epidemic.
This epidemic has surged in recent years, particularly with the explosion of new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes. Right now, more than 5.3 million middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes – more than twice as many as just two years ago. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, youth use of nicotine can seriously harm brain development and lead to other forms of addiction.
“We need to do everything we can to turn the tide, help our children stay healthy, and ensure they’re able to live long, happy, healthy lives. As a parent, that’s truly my goal. Our schools need to be preparing our kids for the future, not preparing them for hospital visits, or worse,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “The passage of this bipartisan bill today attacks the epidemic at every angle and includes measures I called for last fall, like banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products and not allowing the sale of these incredibly harmful products to those under the age of 21. Together, we must continue his critical fight against youth vaping and I urge the Senate to swiftly take up this common-sense, bipartisan bill to protect our nation’s children.”
H.R. 2339, the bipartisan bill passed by the House today:
- Blocks the manufacture and sale of all flavored tobacco products – which are designed to appeal to children with flavors like cotton candy and gummy bear. 97 percent of youth using e-cigarettes use flavored e-cigarettes.
- Prohibits companies from marketing or promoting e-cigarettes to youth under age 21 – which will keep tobacco products out of middle and high schools where many younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. About 95 percent of adult smokers start before age 21 and young people who do not begin smoking by their early 20s are unlikely to ever start.
- Prevents non-face-to-face sales of certain tobacco products – blocking a key path for high schoolers to obtain tobacco products, many of which are sold online with limited or no age verification requirements.
- Closes a tax loophole for e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products to bring them in line with cigarettes, while excluding FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies;
- Makes critical public health investments to smoking prevention and cessation – including for seniors and medically underserved communities;
- Waives Medicare co-payments for colorectal cancer screening tests, of which tobacco usage is a potential contributor; and
- Allows high-deductible health plans to offer coverage of inhalers and nebulizer treatment of chronic lung disease, below the deductible.
In October 2019 at the Boys & Girls Club in Lodi, NJ, Gottheimer announced a multifaceted battle plan as part of his “war on youth vaping” combat the youth vaping and e-cigarette epidemic.
Gottheimer’s battle plan includes:
- Bipartisan legislation to prohibit online sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
- Banning e-cigarette flavors nationwide;
- Working with the FDA to require new e-cigarettes include one-way communication technology to “jam” e-cigs from use on school grounds, and, in the meantime, requiring e-cigarette vapor sensors in all schools;
- Raising the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21;
- Banning all non-tobacco e-cigarette products, flavored vaping liquids, and counterfeit e-cigarettes throughout New Jersey; and
- Beginning a full CDC investigation into the recent vaping lung illnesses and the broader impact of vaping on youth.