Washington D.C. Flavor Ban Passes First Reading

Flavor ban bills have been a hot topic. The day before the Los Angeles City Council voted to draft a flavor ban bill, the District of Columbia Council voted to ban the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.

Credit: JHVE Photo

The Council voted 9-3-1 during the Tuesday, June 15, legislative session. L.A. voted Wednesday. Bars and restaurants that offer hookah will be exempt from the ban in both cities. The bill still has to go through second reading and get the Mayor’s signature, and it is moving forward with many pieces of discussion left with the Council, according to localdvm.com.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), representing more than 200 African-American owned community newspapers from around the United States, have joined together with a group of Black and Hispanic law enforcement executives to oppose the Washington, DC City Council proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, calling the law racially discriminatory.

“Banning menthol is not going to make the demand for menthol products go away. We know this because illegal drugs are used by people in every community in every state across this country,” said Anthony Miranda, national chairperson, National Latino Officers Association, in an email. “When there is a high demand, an illegal market will fill the void, if a legal, regulated market does not. Bans and prohibitions don’t work. They actually create crime.”

Originally, the bill focused on e-cigarettes and vapes, and was created in an effort to keep teenagers and kids from becoming addicted to smoking. Councilmembers who proposed the bill said that is still the focus. Business owners who sell the flavored products are concerned over the impact the ban will have on their businesses.

The District’s Chief Financial Officer estimates the ban will cost the city $13.9 million over the next four years, but McCauley thinks it will be much more than that. McCauley noted the high tax already in place on menthol cigarettes has led to a drop in revenue, as neighboring states Maryland and Virginia have much cheaper prices. He also noted that many people buy and sell cigarettes on the street, which is unregulated.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson was one of the no votes for the bill. He said, “This is not the right approach, for us to be prohibiting, creating other problems, collateral problems by taking this approach, and I think there are other approaches that can promote public health.”