The US raises tobacco purchasing age to 21

By: 
Kaley Conner
Staff Writer

President Donald Trump signed legislation on Dec. 20, 2019, amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. It is now illegal in all 50 states to sell any tobacco products—including e-cigarettes and vaping products—to anyone under 21. Before the federal legislation was passed, 19 states and several localities had already raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Senator Tim Kaine have long headed a bipartisan effort to change the age requirement and have now finalized their efforts by attaching the measure to a must-pass series of bills.

The new minimum age was included in one of several spending bills signed by President Trump to avoid a government shutdown crisis. The package also includes a military and civilian federal worker pay raise, federal funding for gun research and election security grants, a repeal of three health care taxes designed to help fund the Affordable Care Act, 12-week paid parental leave, and funding for the southern border wall.

Some view the passing of this provision as the president’s response to the recent vaping epidemic in teens across the United States. Lance Harrison, owner of local vape retailer Majestic Vapor, comments on the legislation: “. . . I believe this is the right step for our country. The human brain is not fully developed until approximately age 20. Nicotine, as well as other known carcinogens in cigarettes, can stunt the growth of certain parts of the body leading to a lifetime of dependency. I am a father of two children, so I do want a better, tobacco-free future for them. I started my business because of my belief in a product that greatly increases the chance of becoming tobacco free. Even though vape products should not be classified in the same category as combustible tobacco or smokeless tobacco, if we can free our future generations of tobacco dependency by eliminating the access of such products . . . we can thereby minimize the typical contribution to minors. So yes, we support the new law and continue to hope for a brighter, tobacco-free future.”

Implementing the new tobacco law may involve additional steps, and the change is expected to take full effect by the summer of 2020.

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