The US Food and Drug Administration has officially raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and vaping products that contain nicotine from 18 to 21.
After President Donald Trump signed the new age limit into law on December 20 as part of a larger government funding bill, the federal agency also released its updated rules around the sale of tobacco and vaping products — expressly prohibiting their sale to anyone under the age of 21 — the same day.
“On December 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,” a statement on the FDA’s website says. “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21.”
The change comes after a months-long, bipartisan process led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who worked together to change the age requirement. McConnell used his clout to make sure the updated language was added to a massive $1.4 trillion end-of-year spending bill to fund the federal government. McConnell, who is up for reelection next year, made clear he wanted to pass a bipartisan bill to curb smoking and vaping among youth in his state.
“Kentucky continues to punch above its weight in Washington as I use my position as Majority Leader to advance Kentucky priorities, such as my bipartisan bill with Senator Tim Kaine, to stem the tide of early nicotine addiction among youth in Kentucky and across the nation,” McConnell said in a statement after Trump signed the bill into law.
And as The Verge’s Adi Robertson explained earlier this month, a few major tobacco companies supported the legislation — partly as a ploy to forestall other regulations:
Dominant e-cigarette maker Juul has backed these new restrictions at both state and federal levels. (Tobacco giant and Juul investor Altria also supports the move.) Raising the buying age could take regulatory pressure off tobacco companies in other areas, like flavored e-cigarettes, which have been banned in three states and several municipalities, including New York City as of this week.
Implementing the change may involve other steps — the FDA announced it will be issuing additional information as it becomes available; it recently issued new draft guidance for cigarette packaging and advertising, which the agency is currently accepting public comment on — but it’s one that’s already been adopted by over a dozen states nationwide.
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