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OPINIONTobacco

House to Hear Federal Flavor Ban Bill That Includes Menthol

Every email sent to U.S. representatives counts, NATO says
Photograph: Shutterstock

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — In the office of every U.S. House representative, there is a staff member who counts the number of letters, e-mails and phone calls in favor of or opposed to a particular piece of legislation. This information is then considered along with other factors by each member of Congress in deciding what position to take on specific bills. 

On Nov. 13, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to “mark up” or debate legislation jointly introduced by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.). One of the most severe provisions in Pallone’s bill (H.R. 2339) would be a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored smokeless tobacco products, flavored cigars, flavored pipe tobacco and flavored vapor products.

This bill would cause financial harm to retailers with little or no expectation that youth access to or use of tobacco products would be reduced. And if the legislation is intended to reduce youth access to nicotine vapor products, it is paramount that committee members recognize that youth usage of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco are at historic lows. Moreover, the product bans in the bill would encourage illicit markets that both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have attributed to a spate of lung injuries and even deaths from illicit tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges.

Every email letter sent by NATO members opposing this bill will be counted in the offices of U.S. representatives. Last week, NATO asked all of our retail members and their customers to take action by sending a letter to their U.S. representative regarding H.R. 2339. You do not need to be a NATO member to contact Congress with our form. With the bill now being considered in a U.S. House subcommittee, the time is now for all retailers to send a letter or send a second letter to your U.S. representative.

To take action, NATO is providing a new letter that any retailer can send to their specific U.S. representative urging their representative to oppose H.R. 2339. The letter can be changed to personalize the correspondence. To send a letter, please follow these simple steps:

Retailer Letter

  1. Click on this link.
  2. In the appropriate boxes, fill in your first and last name, email address, phone number, street address, city, state and ZIP code. (All of this information is needed to match you to your specific U.S. representative and for your U.S. Representative to send you a reply.)
  3. Make any changes to the text of the letter that you deem appropriate. The predrafted letter is an editable version that you can add to or remove text from.
  4. Click the “Send” button.
  5. Your letter will automatically be sent to your specific U.S. representative and your name will be automatically filled in at the bottom of the letter. 

Retailers must work together to ensure our voice is heard on this legislation. Your help is most appreciated. Thank you in advance for your engagement in this effort!

Thomas Briant is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco retailing association based in Lakeville, Minn. Reach him at info@natocentral.org.

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