Bipartisan Effort Could Raise Minimum Age For Tobacco Purchase To 21

'The Tobacco to 21 Act will be an important step to protect kids from the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.'

A teenager or young woman smokes tobacco.
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'The Tobacco to 21 Act will be an important step to protect kids from the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.'

A bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, nationwide, has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, CNBC is reporting. The Tobacco to 21 Act has wide bipartisan support, and may very well become law.

Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette was joined by Utah Republican Chris Stewart in introducing the bill to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Over in the Senate, Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz and Indiana Republican Todd Young introduced the same bill to that chamber.

The bill would require that adults wishing to purchase tobacco or tobacco-related products, such as cigars and electronic cigarettes, be at least 21 years of age in all 50 states. The bill would further require retailers who sell tobacco products to ask for photo ID of anyone buying tobacco products if they appear to be under 30 years of age.

Already 12 states, and over 400 cities and/or counties, have passed similar legislation.

Proponents of raising the minimum age to buy tobacco say it’s necessary to curtail the “epidemic” of teenagers using electronic nicotine vaporizers, or “vaping.” Although vaporized nicotine oil is slightly safer than smoking tobacco leaves, as Johns Hopkins Medicine reports, the activity is still risky. For one thing, users of electronic cigarettes can still become addicted to nicotine, a craving they may satisfy by smoking cigarettes or cigars.

In addition to having wide bipartisan support, the proposed legislation also has the support of public health advocacy groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association.

Speaking on behalf of the American Lung Association, CEO Harold Wimmer said in a statement that the act is an important first step in combating teen tobacco use.

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“The Tobacco to 21 Act will be an important step to protect kids from the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, and we urge our nation’s leaders to quickly pass this lifesaving legislation.”

Similarly, co-sponsor Diana DeGette says that her bill, unlike similar proposed anti-tobacco bills, won’t be weakened by provisions and exceptions that some experts had feared could actually help the tobacco industry.

“Our bill has no special-interest carve-outs or limitations on state and local governments… our bill was drafted with one simple goal in mind and that’s to protect public health by keeping tobacco products out of the hands of young people.”

As of this writing, Donald Trump has given no indication one way or the other if he will sign the bill should it come to his desk.