Congress Will Raise Age To Purchase Tobacco To 21 In New Spending Bill

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Congress is set to raise the required legal age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. 

The provision, which will be part of a year-end spending deal, has received bipartisan support in the Senate, according to the Washington Post. Supporters of the measure include Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell and Kaine originally introduced the bill in April. McConnell said at the time that he “might seem like an unusual candidate to lead the charge,” but “youth vaping is a public health crisis.”

The push to restrict tobacco sales received support from industry giants, including Juul and Altria, which are both major producers of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul Labs, said in a statement in April that “we strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21.”

“We will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies,” Burns added.

Howard Willard, Altria Group Chairman and CEO, said in a press release that Altria also supports raising the age to purchase tobacco. “Now is the time to move to 21 and we welcome Senator McConnell’s leadership on this important issue,” Willard said.

The policy’s new momentum comes after President Donald Trump supported raising the legal age to 21. “Twenty-one we’re going to be doing,” he said during a November 22 meeting on vaping. The president originally supported a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, a policy which he backed away from in early November.

The legislation was included in a bill originally intended to lower the cost of emergency medical bills, but the larger spending deal was halted by partisan gridlock. Regardless, lawmakers are determined to raise the federal age to purchase tobacco. (RELATED: FDA Commissioner Goes After Walgreens And Other Retailers Allegedly Selling Tobacco To Minors)

Laws prohibiting tobacco sales to people under 21 are already in effect in 19 states. Some companies have already instituted the new tobacco policies. Walgreens raised the minimum age for tobacco sales in April. 

The new federal law will permanently institute the higher age restriction in all 50 states.