President Trump on Friday signed a $1.4 trillion spending deal that includes a major change for American society: you must be 21 or older to purchase tobacco products.
The new rule, which changes the minimum age set in the 1990’s, will take effect next summer. As of this month, 19 states and more than 500 cities had already raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
“We have to take care of our kids…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,” said President Trump last month.
The controversial decision to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products is largely a response to the widespread use of e-cigarettes among teens and “vape lung,” a sometimes-fatal respiratory condition linked to vaping and THC.
According to the HHS, nearly 28% of high school students in the US have used e-cigarettes within the past month.
The age increase “is the most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use,” said The Vapor Technology Association.
For years, lawmakers like Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Brian Schultz (D-HI) have been looking for a way to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. They did so by attaching the prohibition to a must-pass spending package that keeps the government up and running through September 2020.
The bipartisan deal also includes:
- 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees
- A pay raise for troops
- $25 million for gun violence research
- $1.4 billion for border security
- Authorization to sanction Syria, Iran, and Russia for war crimes in Syria
- Guaranteed pension and healthcare for coal miners
- Elimination of “Cadillac taxes” on employer-provided healthcare plans
- Creation of “Space Force”
Lawmakers and advocates also pushed for a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but were unsuccessful in convincing President Trump to support that action.
“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,” argues Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“To reverse the e-cigarette epidemic, policymakers must prohibit flavored e-cigarettes and cannot be limited by what the tobacco industry says is acceptable…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.”