The House on Friday passed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco products despite some opposition from Democrats worried the bill would unfairly target African Americans.
The ban passed 213–195, and is intended to slow the rise in vaping among teenagers who may prefer flavored tobacco. The legislation would also outlaw menthol cigarettes, which are used disproportionately by African Americans, leading some congressmen to warn the bill would result in a crackdown on black communities.
“This legislation has dire, unintended consequences for American Americans,” Representative Yvette Clarke (D., N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill on Thursday. “Law enforcement would have an additional reason to stop and frisk menthol tobacco users because menthol would be considered illegal under this ban.”
Representative Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), another member of the CBC, disagreed with Clarke’s conclusions.
“Smoking cigarettes, especially menthol flavored cigarettes, has resulted in approximately 45,000 African-American deaths each and every year,” Rush said, arguing that tobacco companies’ “predatory” marketing of menthol cigarettes was to blame.
Additionally, proponents of e-cigarettes note that the product statistically causes much less harm than smoking traditional cigarettes.
Meanwhile, Representative Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas) criticized Democrats for passing the ban while failing to introduce any legislation on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
“Just voted no on a bill to ban flavored tobacco across the country. No more flavored cigars, no more hookah. Par for the course with leftist authoritarians,” Crenshaw wrote on Twitter. “We passed a bill banning flavored tobacco, but nothing on coronavirus.”