President Donald Trump just signed a new bipartisan bill that would increase the smoking age from 18 to 21 — and the bill had two very unlikely sponsors. Vaping giant Juul and Marlboro-cigarette maker Altria were both involved in getting the legislation passed, via The Daily Mail.
The measure had widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats, and was co-authored by Democrats Brian Schatz and Dick Durbin as well as Republicans Mitt Romney and Todd Young. It was attached to a must-pass spending bill that President Trump signed into law on Friday.
However, this doesn’t mean that the age has changed yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has six months to develop new regulations taking the age change into account. After that, the agency will have another three years to work with states to implement the changes.
President Trump was quick to announce the bipartisan victory on Twitter.
“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!” he wrote.
However, many health advocates are worried in light of the bills’ biggest sponsors. Both Juul Labs and Altria helped support the bill in a number of ways, such as launching a campaign in Washington, D.C., that covered the city with “Tobacco 21” posters.
The anti-tobacco activists fear that the move was calculated to prevent further regulations against the industry.
“Altria and Juul clearly support this in order to argue that no other action is necessary,” explained Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
This might hold particularly true for Juul Labs. The vaping behemoth has been suffering a barrage of negative press after a number of people — often young adults — have either gotten sick or even died from using the popular electronic cigarette. Banning it for teenagers could help the company keep its mint-flavored pod, or even bring back other flavors that had been popular with young adults.
Altria, for its part, might have a different potential ulterior motive. Vaping devices have cut into its market, particularly for younger people, and many believe the tobacco company is hoping to stem the tide of e-cigarette converts.
Considering 90 percent of smokers begin before the age of 18-years-old, many anti-smoking advocates are still hailing the measures as a big win. However, though it has only just passed on the federal level, about one third of the states in the country had already implemented similar measures. For example, Massachusetts recently passed a similar bill, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.