alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

In February 2019, the U.S. Surgeon General declared the rise of youth vaping was the latest epidemic facing the American public. Reversing a two-decades-long trend of declining smoking rates among underage smokers, e-cigarette use and vaping have become commonplace among children younger than 18.

Since April 2019, the federal government has taken steps to challenge the rising trends, including efforts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to curtail vaping industry marketing efforts to minors. The latest push on Capitol Hill comes from Senators Mitch McConnel (R-KY) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). The senators introduced bipartisan legislation to increase the purchase age for any tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old, superseding any state laws to the contrary.

Moreover, the age change was included in the bipartisan legislation, Lower Health Care Costs Act (S. 1895), from the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee. Also, provisions addressing vaping flavors that entice youth and teen use were included in another bill called the SAFE Kids Act (S. 655), sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

Since the landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed in 2009, vaping has risen to the forefront of the tobacco conversation. To find common ground and support FDA’s continued oversight of tobacco, 16 senators sent a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD, reminding him of the importance of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and other tobacco control efforts in the face of the new vaping epidemic. The letter urged the agency to stand firm against Big Tobacco’s efforts to reach new, younger markets. As an ONS priority, advocates are working in coalitions and alongside elected officials to educate and encourage oversight for new and existing tobacco products.