Tobacco Buying Age to Rise Nationally to 21

Measure becomes law as part of $1.4 trillion federal spending package
Photograph: Shutterstock

UPDATE:  The FDA has posted the following notice: "On Dec. 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco productincluding cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettesto anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available."

WASHINGTON —The federal spending bill that has made its way to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products, including vaping devices and cartridges, from 18 to 21 nationwide, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Part of a $1.4 trillion spending package, the measure would take effect immediately when signed into law, the Journal reported.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill earlier in December, sending it to the Senate, which passed the final version Dec. 19. At press time, President Trump was expected to sign the larger measure into law. The spending package was one of three major votes for the U.S. House of Representatives during the week. The others included the vote to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump and the new North American trade deal.

Regarding the increase in tobacco buying age, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), co-sponsored the provision, also called the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, which they introduced earlier in the year.

The move also had industry support. Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the Laval, Quebec-based parent of the Circle K chain, said, “We … reiterate our position as a responsible retailer of age-restricted products, and we also stated that we’re in favor of fact-based measures to prevent minors from accessing vape products such as raising the legal age [of buying tobacco products] to 21.”

Prior to the Congressional action, officials with Altria Group, Richmond, Va., posted on its website: “More than 50% of the U.S. population lives in states that have raised the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21. And several bipartisan bills are pending in Congress, which Altria also supports. We hope it becomes the law of the land quickly.”

Nineteen states—Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—have raised the tobacco age to 21, along with Washington, D.C., according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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