DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in the city on Wednesday.
The bill, known as the Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021, passed the DC Council in mid-June.
“To attack disparities in health outcomes and ensure all Washingtonians, no matter where they live in our city, have the same opportunities to live long, healthy lives, we must think and act broadly,” said Bowser in a statement following the signing. “Reducing the use of tobacco is a health equity issue. We know that Black residents are disproportionately affected by tobacco use, and flavored tobacco, including menthol, continues to have a particularly insidious effect on our community. Today, we take a hugely impactful step to reducing tobacco initiation and addiction in Washington, DC.”
The new legislation applies to tobacco products with a “distinguishable taste or aroma other than tobacco, including fruit, chocolate, vanilla, candy, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint or wintergreen.”
With the passage of the bill, the current ban on the sale of flavored and menthol e-cigarettes, as well as flavored e-liquids and flavored e-cigars to those younger than 21 will be expanded to any individual.
Anyone who violates the legislation would be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $25 per violation, and companies may face fines of up to $10,000, along with license suspensions or revocations if there are repeated violations.
“There’s no question flavored tobacco products have been used to hook a new generation on smoking,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, who co-sponsored the bill, after the Council’s approval last month. “This isn’t by accident: it has been a focused and intentional effort by the tobacco industry to get new customers – especially communities of color – addicted under the guise that e-cigarettes are somehow safer than traditional tobacco products or that flavored products are ‘cool’.”