Following the passage of a new spending package at the end of December, the age for purchasing tobacco in the U.S. has now changed. Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has raised the age from 18 to 21.
Spending Package Initiates Change to Tobacco Rules
The new change was part of a $1.4 trillion spending package signed by President Donald Trump on December 20. The package touched on a number of things, including tobacco sales, gun violence research, and Trump’s border wall.
On the tobacco front, the new package tasked the FDA with implementing a new change such that 21 is now the minimum age for buying tobacco.
USA Today originally reported that it was not clear when that change would go into effect. But the FDA’s website now makes it look as if the change has already been put into place.
A note from the FDA reads: “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.”
The note continued: “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available.”
The change, and the spending package it was part of, reportedly had bipartisan support. In fact, the change echoed similar changes already enacted in different parts of the country.
Specifically, USA Today reported that 19 states and Washington D.C. had already raised the minimum age for buying tobacco. Now, the new federal law simply aligns with these more local changes.
FDA and Tobacco Products
This new change is the latest in several fairly recent tobacco-related changes coming down from the FDA. Most notably, in recent months and years, the FDA has begun tightening restrictions on tobacco vape products.
Most recently, the FDA sent Juul Labs a warning letter in September. Juul Labs is the company behind the explosively popular tobacco e-cigarette product Juul. However, amid its popularity, the company has faced significant backlash over what many claim is a product that tends to target underage consumers.
In the FDA’s September letter to Juul Labs, the agency told the company it can no longer advertise that its products are safer than regular cigarettes. In the letter, the FDA specifically mentioned young consumers.
“Our concern is amplified by the epidemic rate of increase in youth use of [electronic nicotine delivery system] products, including JUUL’s products, and evidence that [electronic nicotine delivery system] products contribute to youth use of, and addiction to, nicotine, to which youth are especially vulnerable.”
In November, the company stopped selling its mint flavored products. That same month, Washington D.C. and several states launched a lawsuit against Juul Labs. The suits claim that the company’s marketing and promotional materials wrongfully target minors.
Juul Labs is not the only tobacco company to face increased scrutiny in recent months. In fact, vaping products in general—both those containing THC and those containing only tobacco products—have faced a lot of pressure in the wake of vape-related lung injuries, illnesses, and deaths.