A new bill has been introduced in Congress that hopefully will “prevent and reduce the use of tobacco products in America.” H.R. 293, known as the Youth Vaping Prevention Act of 2019, has been brought about from the growing popularity and use of e-cigarettes and vaping products by youth. The bill could also impact other tobacco products if passed.
In 2009, when the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law, it banned flavored cigarettes except menthol. But when cigarette flavors disappeared, flavors in little cigars took off and prices became cheaper. Youth started smoking them in place of cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco flavors also increased. If this bill passes, tobacco products will be allowed to be tobacco flavored and not much else. The bill addresses artificial flavors as well as herb and spices including menthol and other fruit, candy, and baking-style spices currently used. There is an exception for e-cigarettes which will be allowed to use flavors “if the manufacturer can prove the flavor will increase the odds of smoking cessation for the user, will not lead to increased youth use, and will not come with increased harm to the users.” That may be difficult for the vaping industry to prove.
This bill will also bring excise taxes among all tobacco products into an equal footing. For example, right now chewing tobacco is taxed at $0.5033 per pound or $0.0315 per one-ounce tin. The bill would raise this to $5.37 per pound. Snuff, which is currently taxed at $1.51 per pound ($0.0944 per one-ounce tin) would increase to $13.42 per pound. Currently, Florida taxes snuff at 85% of the wholesale price in addition to federal taxes listed above.
Large cigars would also be affected by this new bill. Federal taxes for large cigars are “52.75% of sales price but not to exceed $402.60 per 1,000 cigars or 40.26 cents maximum each.” This bill would apply a tax of “$24.78 per pound of cigar with a floor of no less than 5.033 cents per cigar.” The bigger the cigar, the higher the tax. Florida does not apply a state tax on cigars. The bill would also ban the sale of cigars both online and through catalogs.
And while H.R. 293 would add higher taxes and remove flavors, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio hopes to protect Florida’s cigar industry and has reintroduced Senate Bill 9. Known as the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2019, Bill 9 would take premium cigars out of the control of the FDA. Sen. Rubio has introduced this Bill every year since 2011.
The article from Tobacco Business says if this bill passes, it “could prove damaging for the tobacco industry as it would strongly restrict the use of flavors in tobacco products.” But the tobacco industry seems to have done well throughout history without unnecessary flavors, and it is flavors that are spurring on the teen e-cigarette epidemic in our country. Currently, high school e-cigarette use has jumped nearly 80% and middle school use almost 50% in the past year alone. The health of our young people needs to come first, and H.R. 293 can help to reduce tobacco and e-cigarette use among our nation’s youth.
While we wait for H.R. 293 to pass, we can work on educating our youth. The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course is open and accepting registrations from educators, administrators and school counselors in public, private and charter schools in K-12 grade levels. This no-cost course provides current certificate holders with 30- or 60-professional development credits and is accepted by all 67 Florida school districts. At the end of the course six (6) tobacco prevention lessons will be taught to the students. This year we are pleased to also provide a 20 point CEU course for Florida School Nurses (no teaching required) as well as a 10-point ENDS course for Palm Beach educators. Registration is open until April 30th.