Enforcement Needed to Ensure Law Isn’t Just Smoke and Mirrors
Chicago, IL – In December 2019, Congress passed legislation raising the national purchase age of tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) from 18 to 21 years old. President Trump signed the bill into law and it took effect immediately, making it illegal for retailers to sell tobacco and e-cigarette products to anyone under 21.
Respiratory Health Association (RHA) fully supports efforts to raise the minimum purchase age of tobacco products, especially since 95% of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. On its own, however, this new law is not enough. RHA urges further action from the federal government to prevent youth smoking including:
Enforcement of the new law: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it will take up to 270 days to develop and implement enforcement guidelines. Based on CDC estimates, more than 400,000 youth will smoke their first cigarette during this time. With 19 states including Illinois already enforcing their own Tobacco 21 laws, the federal government should have the necessary existing knowledge and resources to more efficiently craft policies for enforcing the national law.
Continued efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco and e-cigarette products: While Tobacco 21 is a great first step toward curbing teen smoking, a more comprehensive approach to preventing tobacco and e-cigarette use is needed. This includes moving forward with a previously proposed measure to remove all flavored vaping products (including mint and menthol) from the market. These flavoring have proven effective in attracting and addicting young smokers.
Tobacco 21 offers clear public health benefits, but it’s important lawmakers continue fighting disruptive practices from the vaping industry. Products remain unregulated and untested, and these companies should not be allowed to continue deflecting on safety concerns in light of this new law.
As new policies are developed, it is up to individual states to continue fighting for the health of teens and against the tobacco industry’s influence. RHA and its partners worked hard to ensure the passage of Tobacco 21 in Illinois, and now we urge Illinois lawmakers to move forward with a ban on flavored tobacco products.
Supporting additional public education and awareness initiatives: A key part of reducing youth smoking is showing teens that these products are dangerous and addictive. Expanding educational content and programs for youth can help offset the billions being spent by the tobacco industry to market tobacco and vaping products. Additional investment is needed at the state and federal level to provide necessary resources needed for these efforts.