US House approves bill to ban sale of flavoured e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving to stem a vaping epidemic among young people, the United States (US) House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes and other flavoured tobacco products.

The bill would place new restrictions on the marketing of e-cigarettes and ban flavours in tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. It also would place a new excise tax on nicotine.

The House approved the bill, 213-195, sending it to the Senate, where approval is considered unlikely. The White House said in a statement that US President Donald Trump’s administration opposes the bill.

Supporters, mostly Democrats, said the legislation provides a comprehensive strategy to reverse a teen vaping epidemic that officials fear is hooking a generation of young people on nicotine. In the latest government survey, more than one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Late last year, Congress approved a law raising the minimum age to buy all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 nationwide.Opponents said the House bill went too far, noting that the new law raising the age of tobacco use has been in effect for only two months. Earlier this year, the Trump administration issued rules that prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavours from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes like Juul, the most popular brand in the US.

But the policy exempts disposable e-cigarettes and larger tank-based vaping devices. Those exceptions followed months of lobbying by vaping companies. Public health advocates accused the administration of caving to industry pressure.

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus said the proposal to ban menthol cigarettes could harm black smokers. African Americans smoke menthol cigarettes at a far higher rate than the rest of the US population, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes is heavily targetted toward black smokers.

Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States (US) Nancy Pelosi displays an advocacy ad that criticises the tobacco and vaping industry for allegedly targetting young African-Americans. PHOTO: AP