- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2020

The House on Friday morning passed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes by a razor-thin margin, marking the most aggressive bid yet to crack down on the youth vaping epidemic.

The bill would raise the national minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 and bar companies from marketing their products to anyone younger. However, the legislation would also ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products and prohibit online sales in an attempt to crack down on youth smoking.

The bill passed on a 213-195 vote. Five Republicans supported the measure, while 17 Democrats voted against it. Twenty-two members — including Majority Whip James Clyburn — declined to vote at all.

Those opposed to the bill argued it goes overboard with the regulations.

“Every member in this room is concerned, and rightfully so, about the rise in youth tobacco use,” said Republican Rep. Greg Walden. “The legislation before us goes much further than most of us can support, because what it does is make legal products for adults illegal.”

Mr. Walden, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also argued that Congress did work in a bipartisan fashion to address youth tobacco use by raising the purchasing age for cigarettes and vaping products to 21 in December.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, the bill’s sponsor, defended the far-reaching regulations.

“We need to ban online sales so that kids cannot go online and buy these things without having an ID,” he said. “And we need to ban flavors across the board because that’s what masks the nicotine and makes people think that it’s OK and that somehow these are cessation devices.”

In January, President Trump announced a new policy that banned flavored, cartridge-based vaping products such as fruit, candy and mint, but excludes tobacco and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes. It scaled back from the initial proposal, which would have banned all non-tobacco vaping flavors.

The measure is unlikely to get any traction in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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