The legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21 as part of a spending bill passed by Congress, and signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20.
The legislation was originally introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), before being combined with another bill to become part of the spending package.
Trump took to Twitter to announce that he was going to sign the bill, singling out the tobacco issue alongside paid parental leave, the establishment of a Space Force, and funding for the southern border wall.
I will be signing our 738 Billion Dollar Defense Spending Bill today. It will include 12 weeks Paid Parental Leave, gives our troops a raise, importantly creates the SPACE FORCE, SOUTHERN BORDER WALL FUNDING, repeals “Cadillac Tax” on Health Plans, raises smoking age to 21! BIG!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, praised the move, writing in a statement: “This is a major step in protecting the next generation of children from becoming addicted to tobacco products. Tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids.”
The legislation makes it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco products to anyone under 21.
After a slew of lung diseases linked to vaping cropped up earlier this year, Trump spoke in favor of raising the age limit to buy tobacco products.
“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so, so we’ll be coming out with something next week very important on vaping,” Trump told reporters in Washington.
This is a major step in protecting the next generation of children from becoming addicted to tobacco products. Tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids.
— Dr. Stephen M. Hahn (@SteveFDA) December 21, 2019
Vaping is popular with youth, with nearly 10 percent of eighth graders, 20 percent of 10th graders, and 25 percent of high school seniors saying they’ve vaped nicotine in the past month, according to a federal survey. And 31 percent of high school students use a tobacco product, as well as 12.5 percent of middle school students, according to another survey.
The age limit increase garnered support from many in the vaping industry, including Juul and Altria.
“We applaud congressional efforts to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 and urge the president to sign this bill. The Vapor Technology Association has advocated for raising the age to 21 for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and believes, along with the public health groups, that this is the most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use,” Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, said in a statement emailed to CNN on Dec. 20.
“VTA stands ready to continue working with Congress on the many real solutions (rather than a misguided flavor ban agenda), that should be implemented to achieve the twin goals of restricting youth vaping and preserving flavored vapor as an alternative for adults desperately trying to quit smoking.”
Others criticized the move while still others said that it wasn’t enough.
“Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
“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.”