New legislation introduced by the U.S. Senate earlier this month has raised the legal age limit on all tobacco sales from 18 to 21 nationwide.
The Food and Drug Administration, who has the enforcement power of it, announced Friday that the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president Dec. 20, is in effect.
It raises the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, to 21.
Since there already was an existing federal law setting the federal minimum at 18 years old — even though 18 states and many cities had already set their legal age for tobacco sales at 21 — and the change only involved increasing the age limit in existing law, the FDA said it is able to go into effect immediately.
The Tobacco-Free Youth Act, introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), senators from two states with a long history of tobacco production and consumption.
A release from McConnell’s camp said the motivation was to, “help protect young people from the dangers of nicotine.”
“Passage of this lifesaving legislation is an enormous victory for the health of our young people,” Kaine said in a statement. “By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use. I’m grateful for the work of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and all the Virginians who made their voices heard to join us in this critical effort to improve public health. This is one of many steps we should take to tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic that touches every corner of our nation.”
The American Lung Association, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and the the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids were among a handful of groups that supported the new legislation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 statistics, over 6 million U.S. middle and high school students were current users of tobacco products with 1 in 3 high school students and 1 in 8 middle school students reporting using some type of tobacco product in the past 30 days.
Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington – along with Washington, DC and over 500 localities had already raised their minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.