Federal law raises tobacco purchase age to 21

On Dec. 20, 2019, the new minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges, was raised to 21 from 18.

The legislation was included in the federal year-end legislative package and passed by both houses of Congress. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 20, 2019, and it immediately took effect.

According to www.lung.org, the momentum to raise the age increased as cities – including Sabetha – and states across the nation began to increase their legal sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Nineteen states have passed Tobacco 21 laws. Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Arkansas, Texas and Virginia. The District of Columbia also raised their minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21.

The impact

According to www.lung.org, the potential impact of the new law is significant. The website proposes that increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives.

A report from the National Academy of Medicine in March 2015 said that raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including reducing lung cancer deaths – the nation’s leading cancer killer – by 50,000.

This 2015 report also said, if the minimum age were increased to 21 years of age, tobacco use would decrease by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers were adults, and smoking-related deaths will decrease by 10 percent. It also said that smoking initiation will be reduced by 25 percent for 15- to 17-year-olds, and 15 percent for 18- to 20-year-olds.

According to www.tobaccofreekids.org, national data shows about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The age range of 18 to 21 is a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. While less than half of adult smokers become daily smokers before age 18 — about 46 percent — four out of five do so before they turn 21.

Over the years, research has shown that nicotine is addictive, and adolescents and young adults are more susceptible to its effects because their brains are still developing. Delaying the age when young people first experiment with or begin using tobacco can reduce the risk that they will become addicted smokers in the future, according to www.tobaccofreekids.org.

Research also shows that kids often turn to older friends and classmates as sources of cigarettes. According to www.tobaccofreekids.org, increasing the tobacco age to 21 should reduce the likelihood that a high school student will be able to legally purchase tobacco products for other students and underage friends.

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