The major public health move follows the national vaping crisis which resulted in lung injuries among vapers
The United States now prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anybody under 21 years of age, according to a new minimum age law signed into effect last week by President Donald Trump.
The new law, called the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, was a part of a massive $738 billion spending bill that also included funding for the border wall, the newly-formed Space Force branch of the military and paid parental leave for federal employees.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noted on its website on Friday, Dec. 27 that “it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available.”
The new federal law follows that of 19 states that have raised the minimum age of tobacco purchases: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) — helped push the inclusion of the Tobacco-Free Youth Act in the must-pass spending package in order to avoid a government shutdown.
“Passage of this lifesaving legislation is an enormous victory for the health of our young people,” Kaine said in a statement. “By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use. This is one of many steps we should take to tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic that touches every corner of our nation.”
This past September, Trump promised to address the national vaping crisis and to curb the rising levels of vaping among youth, noting that the FDA would announce “some very strong recommendations” for the sale of flavored e-cigarette products.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019, more than 6 million middle and high school students in the U.S. were current users of tobacco; 1 in 3 high school students and 1 in 8 middle schoolers said they have used some form of tobacco product in the last 30 days.
Advocates for reducing vape and tobacco usage praised the Trump administration for its efforts to reduce vaping among youth, but Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement that raising the minimum age “is a positive step” but it will not stop the epidemic in the long-term.
“To reverse the e-cigarette epidemic, policymakers must prohibit flavored e-cigarettes and cannot be limited by what the tobacco industry says is acceptable,” Myers said. “The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes are driving the youth epidemic. Most youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and cite flavors as a key reason for their use. As long as flavored e-cigarettes remain available, kids will find ways to get them and this epidemic will continue.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)