Press Releases

Shalala and Pallone Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Address Youth Tobacco Epidemic

“At the end of the day, our main goal is to reduce the number of kids using tobacco products in the United States.”

Washington, April 16, 2019 | joseph.puente@mail.house.gov (2022253931)

Washington, D.C. Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) announced the introduction of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 today. The new legislation aims to address the sharp rise in use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among young people.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.  According to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America.

“The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco” Pallone said.  “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal.  My legislation also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law.  We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

“If a person does not start using tobacco products when they are young, it is less likely they will start as an adult.  As HHS Secretary during the Clinton Administration, we made great strides in holding tobacco companies accountable for marketing their products to kids, and we reduced the number of people who smoked cigarettes,” Shalala said.  “But now, the use of e-cigarettes, particularly by children, is beginning to undo years of progress we have made.  Our bill, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, takes concrete steps to limit access and the appeal of tobacco products to people under 21.  At the end of the day, our main goal is to reduce the number of kids using tobacco products in the United States.”

The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 includes a number of important provisions to curb the rise of youth tobacco use: 

  • Requires FDA to finalize a rule requiring graphic health warnings for cigarette packages within 12 months;
  • Extends FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all deemed tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years and makes it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age;
  • Directs FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories;
  • Prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol;
  • Provides FDA with authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Instructs FDA to issue a final rule on the regulation of products containing synthetic nicotine or nicotine that is not made or derived from tobacco;
  • Makes it unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 21; and,
  • Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an annual report to Congress on the domestic sales, advertising, and promotional activity of cigarette, cigar, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette manufacturers. 

Pallone and Shalala’s bill has widespread support from public health advocates, including: the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, March of Dimes, and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

Section-by-section available HERE.

Bill text available HERE.

###