Lawmakers Vote to Prohibit the Sale of Menthol Cigarettes and All Other Flavored Tobacco Products

February 28, 2020

Washington, D.C. – February 28, 2020 – In a historic vote, the United States House of Representatives approved comprehensive legislation today that would prohibit menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act (H.R. 2339), authored by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), would also prohibit the online sale of most tobacco products and restrict the aggressive marketing practices of the profit-driven tobacco industry.

It comes amid an ongoing youth tobacco use epidemic, which has been driven primarily by flavored e-cigarettes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows e-cigarette use among high school students rose to 27.5% in 2019, up from 11.7% in 2017. Five million middle and high school students now report regular e-cigarette use. It is also well-documented that the tobacco industry has targeted the African American community for decades through intense advertising and promotional efforts to consume menthol cigarettes.

“With tobacco use remaining the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, passage of the legislation today represents approval of the most significant piece of tobacco legislation since Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act more than a decade ago,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) President Lisa Lacasse.

“Chairman Pallone and Rep. Shalala deserve a tremendous amount of credit for championing this life saving legislation and successfully navigating it through the House of Representatives, despite relentless and formidable opposition by the tobacco industry,” said Lacasse. “House lawmakers have taken a historic step by approving legislation that will effectively end the tobacco industry’s shameless targeting of communities of color with their deadly products, most notably menthol cigarettes.”

“Additionally, amid the ongoing youth e-cigarette crisis, the prohibition of all flavored tobacco products included in the legislation is a monumental step forward and a firm rebuke of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s failure to effectively address the public health crisis the tobacco industry has created,” said Lacasse. “The health of our nation’s children is on the line. The House has taken the lead to protect them from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and tobacco use.  It’s now time for the Senate to pass this legislation so it can become law.” 

Medicare Colon Cancer Screening

Also part of the legislative package approved today, is a measure that would eliminate surprise out-of-pocket expenses for seniors on Medicare when they get a routine screening colonoscopy. The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act would eliminate cost-sharing for seniors who are hit with a surprise bill when a polyp is discovered and removed during a routine screening colonoscopy. Under current law, Medicare covers the full costs of a preventive screening colonoscopy. However, if a polyp is found and removed during that preventive procedure, patients wake up to a pricey cost-sharing bill often totaling several hundred dollars. More than 145,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and over 51,000 of them will die from the disease.

“We know colorectal cancer can be prevented with regularly-scheduled screenings. Yet too many seniors on Medicare choose to forego this simple procedure because of cost,” Lacasse said. “We applaud House lawmakers for stepping up to help seniors afford potentially life-saving colon cancer screenings. Removing the financial worry about a surprise bill will surely help spur seniors to get the screenings they need when they need them and help lessen the burden of colon cancer.” 


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