NTU Writes in Opposition to the "Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act"

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The Honorable Anna Eshoo
Chair, Subcommittee on Health
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 
The Honorable Michael Burgess
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Health
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 
Dear Chairwoman Eshoo and Ranking Member Burgess:
 
On behalf of National Taxpayers Union, the nation’s oldest taxpayer advocacy organization, I write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 2339, the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.” In our view, this legislation would place the federal government between buyers and sellers, regulate FDA approved products out of existence, and have many unintended consequences. We hope you stand with taxpayers and consumers and oppose this legislation and focus efforts on solutions that would address teen nicotine use.
 
NTU has a long history of advocating against policies that would have an adverse effect on our economy or America’s taxpayers. To that end, the government’s distortion of the tobacco and nicotine market is one such area where we engage often, particularly at the state and local level. We understand the concerns of the Committee regarding teen nicotine use and we share the Committee’s goal of achieving a healthier outcome for America’s youth, however, we do not agree that a top-down, heavy-handed government intervention is the correct path forward. Such an approach would upend tremendous progress that has enabled more Americans to quit deadly cigarettes and live a healthier lifestyle. 
 
We are particularly concerned with a provision of this legislation that prohibits all flavors of tobacco products, including menthol. In their attempts to kick their tobacco habit, adult tobacco smokers typically start with tobacco flavored e-liquid, but research indicates many end up switching to more fruity or sweet flavors. Cracking down on the ability for legal-age buyers of flavored e-cigarettes will limit access to less harmful alternatives that could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Top-down blanket prohibitions are seldom successful and often lead consumers to turn to untaxed and unregulated black markets to access products.
 
Many are concerned about the prevalence of vaping in our society, but scientific literature is coalescing around the fact that vaping is significantly less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes. A recent study shows vaping can reduce the harm associated with smoking by as much as 95 percent, and can be as much as twice as effective as gum or patches to help users quit. It is growing ever clearer that vapor products are an innovative and effective bridge for smokers transitioning toward significantly less harmful alternatives. For years, government officials have taken steps to reduce the prevalence of tobacco usage, and the free market has produced a solution to address this serious problem.
 
The FDA also recognizes that these new products are less harmful than combustible cigarettes and considered to be tobacco harm reduction (THR), based on a reasonable premise that there are significant benefits (for individual health, government health care programs, and the economy) to providing smokers with innovative alternative means of getting the nicotine they desire. It is therefore ill-advised to limit access to less risky alternatives for consumers attempting to kick their cigarette habit.
 
Additionally, there is little evidence suggesting that menthol makes it easier for teens to get hooked and harder for adults to quit, or that flavored-vapes are the reason for recent deaths.
 
H.R. 2339 also directs the FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories. This provision would significantly limit the ability for legal-age consumers to price shop between sites online and brick-and-mortar retailers, which would likely lead to higher prices for consumers. 
 
It is indeed possible to keep nicotine out of the hands of teenagers without jeopardizing the great accomplishments that have been made in public health through the availability of vapor products for legal age consumers. As such, NTU strongly believes H.R. 2339 would harm consumers in all corners of the country far more than it would help them. Accordingly, we encourage you to oppose this bill and instead work toward a more reasonable approach to this public concern.
 
Sincerely, 
 
Thomas Aiello
Policy and Government Affairs Associate