If you've been paying attention to the news from Washington, DC lately, you may know that the House just recently passed a tobacco flavor ban that would include not just tobacco, but vape products, as well. The flavor ban was meant to curb what legislators say is an "epidemic" with our youth and smoking.
This ban doesn't just incorporate fruity flavors you see on shelves. It also pertains to subtle flavors in premium cigars - and even more so - menthol flavored tobacco products. It would abolish online sales of tobacco products, and require all sales to be made face to face.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. and Rep. Donna Shalala are behind this push to abolish flavors and decrease smoking with our youth.
Now - I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed - but I think they are headed down the wrong path with this bill.
First off - in the middle of a world-wide pandemic - you're taking a smoke break away from anyone who might need it! It's everything right now just to get five minutes to yourself and breath for a minute. Making it more difficult to purchase those products will result in a black market, for sure.
One thing I DON'T suggest - is to ban all forms of flavored tobacco. The percentage of the market who smoke flavored tobacco products is still small in comparison to the overall tobacco market. But banning these flavors will only cause a black market - where prices go up and people wind up getting penalized just because they decided to have a smoke that tastes like menthol - or any other flavor for that matter. If they don't sell it in the stores, you can best believe it will be sold elsewhere -and kids and adults alike will be making up their own flavoring to put into their smokes that they can purchase.
And I'd like to know where people got the inclination that flavored tobacco "prompts' our youth to smoke. Listen - I remember back in college when I picked up smoking for a bit. There were flavored products out there - but they didn't enhance my wanting to try a cigarette. The folks in Washington would like you to believe that the reason why teens start smoking is that the flavors are attractive and cool. Hate to burst your bubble - but teens usually start smoking because their friend (or friends) smoke and they would like to fit in. Just because the packaging shows strawberries and it tastes like strawberry flavored tobacco - doesn't push someone over the edge to smoke. You either do or you don't.
But there is one thing that really makes this push to ban menthol and marginally flavored tobacco seem like an unnecessary afterthought. It’s that the whole focus on flavors supposedly enticing kids to nicotine products was an idea suggested through vaping numbers in the first place. I don’t want to jump too deep into the vaping part of this whole thing. It’s obviously important to help protect kids from exposure to smoking and health dangers, but whereas 23% used to experiment with combustible cigarettes, these days vaping is usually experimented with.
Folks, the Truth
campaign has done a phenomenal job in deterring kids from smoking tobacco
. Where it was almost "cool" to smoke back in the day - kids in high school now are pretty adamant that smoking cigarettes and tobacco is dumb and gross.
Just think of how crazy things could possibly get if this bill passes and now cops can pull you over simply because the cigar your smoking smells like vanilla. Or take, for instance, Newport and Kool smokers have to watch their back since they could also possibly go to jail because menthol would now be illegal. Folks - there will be areas of our country where an individual can smoke a joint out in public carefree and the same guy would be breaking the law by smoking a cognac flavored cigar!
People will lose jobs - customers will get fined and/or arrested. Taxpayer dollars would be wasted while law enforcement ruled like the days of prohibition. Black markets will develop- and all because folks on Capitol Hill think that that the scrumptious taste in tobacco products leads our children to crave tobacco products. If they truly think that is going to change things - I challenge them to take a poll if and when they take flavors away to see how many are still smoking! I assure you that the number will be comparable - smoking flavors is a luxury - but smoking, in general, is a lifestyle choice for most who do - and I don't think the masses are going to quit cold turkey because it doesn't taste like Russian Creme anymore.
And let's talk about the requirement to sell tobacco products face to face and abolish online sales of tobacco products. Legit cigar and tobacco websites have systems and companies that verify not only age - but enforce a wide range of security measures to ensure that those who buy are of legal age. This business to business guide for cigar business owners on how to sell cigar products online clearly outlines that, not only must the premium cigar e-commerce site make sure people are old enough through website age verification. It’s also required to have an adult signature on every delivery, the right tobacco warning labels across the online shop, all while meeting local, state, and federal laws regarding sale and shipping of the products.
With all these security measures in place, it’s pretty reasonable to argue that these products don’t arrive at the hands of anyone underage. How does banning all online sales of tobacco products solve anything - never mind how flavors come into the picture?
So - where is the middle ground? What will appease the lawmakers that will keep them at bay?
Instead of putting more money into law enforcement - why not invest in customer service reps that will be trained not to sell to minors?? After all - isn't that the issue here? Keeping teens from smoking?? Leave it to someone on Washington to come up with a law that covers more than it should - let the adults of the world make up their own mind and concentrate those efforts to keep kids from smoking.
The bill isn't expected to pass the Senate - but if it does - there's going to be chaos harming legitimate, honest businesses, employees, and business owners.
Hopefully, somewhere along the line, there will be a compromise reached that satisfies those in Washington who need to make something their soapbox and still allow adults the choice to smoke what they want to smoke. After all, if they accept that adults can make a reasonable decision to smoke a joint, surely we can also make reasonable decisions by smoking a nice, flavored, premium cigar.
Then again, this little tidbit from the author of the bill might reveal the real faith they have in us; “you don’t have to be young to be stupid” - that certainly seems to fit the bill on Capitol Hill these days.
Please contact your Senators urging them to reject HR 2339. Click here for more information.
Below are some interesting facts for you to check out, too!
- How your U.S. Representatives voted for H.R. 2339.