Two U.S. senators from different parties, who hail from states with the largest and most successful tobacco crop, have come together to raise the national smoking age. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have teamed up to cosponsor the Tobacco-Free Youth Act (S. 1541), a bill that would restrict the marketing, sale, and distribution of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. A similar bill, Tobacco to 21 Act (H.R. 2411), was introduced in the House by Diane Degette (D-CO).
Recent trends point to a stark increase in youth tobacco, especially with the advent of e-cigarettes and vaping mechanisms. Strengthening regulations and raising the purchase age may help to curb those rising rates. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is joining the fight by cracking down on the marketing tactics used by many big tobacco companies.
Other members of the Senate and House have signed on as additional bill sponsors. Recognizing the addictive qualities of nicotine and the potential for cancer associated with tobacco, elected officials are drawing a line against youth use of both traditional and electronic cigarettes. ONS and many other smoking cessation national organizations also support the bill.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids issued a statement that makes it clear that although this is a strong start, industry efforts to soften the bill will not be tolerated. Citing flavored tobacco and vaping as tools Big Tobacco uses to entice elementary through high school students, a key element of the bill is to target these aspects of marketing to minors. As the bill moves through Congress, ONS will actively support advocacy efforts to further education and smoking cessation tactics.