CCAGW Urges DC Mayor Bowser To Veto Flavored Electronic Smoking Device Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021 | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW Urges DC Mayor Bowser To Veto Flavored Electronic Smoking Device Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021

State Action

June 22, 2021

The Honorable Mayor Muriel Bowser
Executive Office of the District of Columbia Mayor
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Mayor Bowser,

On behalf of the 2,811 members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) in the District of Columbia, I urge you to veto B24-0020. This legislation would prohibit “the sale or distribution of all flavored electronic smoking devices in the District of Columbia.”

B24-0020 will not prevent people in the District of Columbia from using tobacco or electronic smoking devices.  Instead, they will purchase these items in Maryland or Virginia.  Since neither state has a similar ban on electronic smoking devices, everyone in D.C. can easily purchase these by traveling to one of those jurisdictions.  While Maryland considered several measures to ban flavored electronic smoking devices, those bills did not make it far in the legislature. 

Before the District of Columbia jumps on board the anti-flavor train, it should carefully examine what happened in Massachusetts, which was the first state to permanently ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products.  According to a study by the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, lost excise tax income in Massachusetts from selling fewer menthol cigarettes alone amounted to $62 million in the first six months of the ban.  Massachusetts’ loss became its neighboring states’ gain, which is likely to happen to D.C. if it implements a flavor ban for tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Cigarettes excise tax stamp sales dropped by 23.9 percent in Massachusetts while New Hampshire’s excise tax stamp income increased by 29.7 percent and Rhode Island’s increased by 18.2 percent.  The estimated total loss to Massachusetts including the sales tax was $73,008,000.

Under this legislation, if an individual in D.C. sells, offers or receives for sale, manufactures, distributes, purchases, or facilitates the sale of electronic smoking devices or flavored tobacco products will be fined no more than $25 per violation, but if anyone else other than an individual commits a violation, that person will be fined no more than $10,000. Implementing this law, to have any meaning and real effect on preventing the use of flavored electronic cigarette devices, will require enforcement, diverting scarce taxpayer resources from other illicit activity.

Flavored e-cigarettes became pariahs when it was believed that they caused e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI).  But the culprit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was vitamin E acetate, an additive in tetrahydrocannabinol-containing e-cigarettes, which were obtained from “friends, family, or in-person or online dealers.”  In other words, obtained by illicit means.

Another reason for the ban is to “prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors under sixteen years of age in the District of Columbia,” but it is already illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase any tobacco products.  The best way to stop youth from utilizing cigarettes or any tobacco product is parental oversight and continued education on the harm they can cause.  D.C. should not emulate Massachusetts’ unsuccessful ban on flavored tobacco products.

Flavor bans are particularly injurious to individuals who use vaping or other electronic cigarettes to wean themselves off harmful combustible cigarettes.  It is the burning of tobacco that releases the harmful chemicals that cause lung and heart disease and cancer.  Public Health England continues to argue for and promote alternative nicotine delivery devices, like e-cigarettes, because they are “less harmful and could play a crucial role in reducing” smoking which “remains the biggest single cause of preventable death and disease.”  Banning flavored vapes and electronic cigarettes will hurt people who want to use less harmful tobacco products to stop smoking. 

Again, I urge you to veto B24-0020. 

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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