The DC Council passed on Tuesday a bill that would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes, in the city.
The Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021 needs to receive a second vote from councilmembers on Tuesday, June 29, before being signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The bill aims to make it unlawful to sell flavored and menthol e-cigarettes, as well as flavored e-liquids and flavored e-cigars to any individual; expanding the current ban on selling tobacco products to those younger than 21.
Anyone who violates the legislation would be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $25 per violation, and corporations may face fines of up to $10,000, along with license suspensions or revocations if there are repeated violations.
In addition, no person can sell, offer for sale, receive for sale, manufacture, distribute, purchase, or facilitate the sale of a flavored tobacco product; or an electronic smoking device within one quarter mile of any middle or high school in the District, according to the bill.
“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. “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’.”
Arguing that tobacco companies are deliberately targeting Black Washingtonians, the LGBTQ community, women, and young people, the Ward 6 councilmember said it was not only about health, “but an equity and social justice issue.”
The District loses around 800 residents to conditions caused by tobacco use every year, according to Allen, who says he believes this bill will save lives, especially young ones.