WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The District of Columbia Council passed a bill that bans the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, in an 8-5 vote. The bill exempts hookah bars from the ban.
Council was divided on the bill that originally focused on banning only the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in an effort to curb teen smoking addiction.
Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George attempted to send the bill back to the committee so that more public input could be made regarding the menthol cigarette portion of the bill. Councilmember George’s motion failed in a 7-6 vote after a back-and-forth between the councilmembers.
Those who were against the bill cited the portion related to menthol cigarettes, with concern that it will disproportionately impact Black residents who smoke.
“This bill does not account for the fact that nicotine is an addiction and quitting is harder for menthol smokers who are disproportionately Black. Cigarette addiction and addiction to any tobacco product is no different than alcohol or drug addiction,” Councilmember George said.
Councilmembers for the bill noted the public health matter at hand related to smoking and keeping cigarettes out of the hands of young people. It was also noted that other jurisdictions and government bodies have had similar debates over legislation because of menthol, and that choosing to vote no for that reason would not solve any issues related to tobacco in the District.
An addition to the bill clarified the enforcement of the law, which is not the Metropolitan Police Department’s responsibility, but is rather up to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.