Tobacco

House-Passed Budget Deal Raises Age To Buy Cigarettes to 21

The legislation would also prevent those under 21 from purchasing vaping products.

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The same Congress that just passed a deficit-increasing spending package is so worried about the long-term consequences of bad decisions that it has decided to raise the smoking age. The budget deal that passed the House Tuesday contains a provision raising the minimum age to buy nicotine products, like cigarettes and vapes, to 21.

The push to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products has grown in recent years. In 2016, Hawaii became the first state to raise its smoking age. Since then, 19 states and over 530 local governments have increased their smoking age to 21, according to Tobacco 21, an advocacy group.

The House-passed bill gives the federal government 180 days to write new regulations barring the sale of tobacco to those under 21, plus another 90 days for those new regulations to go into effect. Provided the bill is approved by the Senate and White House, as expected, a 21-year-old smoking age will be the law of the land by summer 2020.

The Washington Post reports that Altria and Reynolds American Inc. have both come out in support of raising the smoking age. Tony Abboud of the Vapor Technology Association told the Post that the move is "most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use."

Compare that to Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who wrote in a press release that, "raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids…Juul and Altria have hijacked the tobacco 21 issue for their own nefarious reasons as a shield to fight efforts to prohibit flavored e-cigarettes."

Only a handful of lonely liberty advocates have been fighting to let adults under 21 keep buying cigarettes if they want.

Libertarian-leaning Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) tweeted about how raising the smoking age will cost $18 million, which includes grant funding for states to perform unannounced inspections of tobacco retailers.

The evidence for the efficacy of a 21-and-up policy for nicotine purchases is also pretty thin. An oft-cited example is Needham, Massachusetts, which raised its smoking age to 21 in 2005, and subsequently saw a much greater drop in the teen smoking rate than surrounding towns.

As Michelle Minton, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed out in a November blog post, these extraordinary declines in teen smoking in Needham were temporary. Teen smoking was soon falling faster in neighboring towns that had not adopted a higher smoking age. Indeed between 2012 and 2014, teen smoking in Needham actually increased.

Minton speculates that by cutting those under 21 off from buying e-cigarettes, a proven smoking cessation product, Needham's policy simply encouraged young smokers to stick to illicit but more readily available cigarettes.

In addition to the pragmatic case against raising the smoking age, there's also something to be said for letting adults do what they want as long as they are not harming anyone.

It's a tired but nevertheless true argument that 18 is the start of adulthood, and thus should be the age at which we allow humans in America to make their own decisions. The state allows 18-year-olds to join the military, to sign for loans, to decide where they will live, and to marry. Someone capable of making those choices can also probably decide whether they want to buy a pack of cigarettes or a Juul.

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  1. I didn’t think the federal government had the authority to set a universal legal smoking age. When the drinking age was raised to 21 didn’t the feds have to compel individual states to pass the laws by withholding USDOT grant funds if they didn’t comply? What am I missing here?

    1. What am I missing here?
      FYTW? I assume they worded it to have a nexus to interstate commerce.

      1. or Global Warming…

        1. Or Medicare.

          I’m still not sure where federal authority for Social Security or Medicare comes from.

      2. I guess I should just be grateful for bi-partisan common-sense regulation for the children.

        1. I guess I should just be fearful of bi-partisan common-sense regulation for the children.

          FTFY

          1. WHY DO YOU HATE CHILDREN?!?!

      3. Because the FDA now regulates tobacco products, which they’ve included e-cigarettes in, they can set a minimum age to purchase

    2. You are missing nothing. It’s unconstitutional, but joins a long list of unconstitutional things the feds are doing anyway. There’s no real consequence to them, so why not?

  2. I would not complain about this law so much if they also raised military service to 21 as well. Far as I’m concern if your old enough to drive tanks, get shot, and order to do suicidal mission, and baby sit nuclear bombs. Your are old enough to chooses to smoke,drink and read porn.

    1. Pretty much what I was thinking.

      1. I know Virginia exempted military when it raised its tobacco age to 21 last summer. Makes sense-if you are 18 and Ok with possibly getting killed in combat, the government should have no business telling you you can’t smoke

        1. No, it doesn’t make sense to treat people differently because they are in the military. The military could just ban anyone of any age from smoking if they chose to. The government should have no business telling you you can’t smoke in any case. Particularly if you are legally an adult. Just consider the absurdity of the very real charge of possession of tobacco (or alcohol) by an adult.

    2. Yeah, how about one age of majority and that’s that?

    3. I know Virginia exempted military when it raised its tobacco age to 21 last summer. Makes sense-if you are 18 and Ok with possibly getting killed in combat, the government should have no business telling you you can’t smoke

    4. Only if they raise the minimum voting age, too. If you’re not mature enough to buy a pack of cigarettes, you certainly can’t be trusted with “the most important civic responsibility”.

    5. I recall commanders telling us to card everyone when alcohol was served. We dutifully checked that everyone had a card.

  3. Democrats

    “16 year olds mature and responsible enough to hold the franchise and choose political leaders for the nation.”

    Also

    “People under 21 are too immature to be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to use tobacco products.”

    In the Democrat’s view, tobacco is serious and important, while voting is frivolous and not a heavy responsibility.

    1. And that’s about the rest of what I was thinking.

    2. Raise the voting age to 40.

      1. Limiting voting to property owners left it to individuals to demonstrate their resourcefulness. Unfortunately, it makes no allowance for inheritance and gifts, and the rich had way too much power.

        1. One place where I think that that should be brought back is in local jurisdictions funded by property taxes. And why should you have to be domiciled in a place to be able to vote there if you are paying taxes? Wasn’t there something about “no taxation without representation”?

  4. It’s a tired but nevertheless true argument that 18 is the start of adulthood

    Because that’s when you can be sentenced to an adult prison?

    1. “Because that’s when you can be sentenced to an adult prison?”

      And be traded around the cellblock for a pack of smokes.

  5. Notice how all the nannies want to ban flavored vapes but never mention flavored alcohol. I know my favorite booze in high school were Kaluah, Bailey’s and peach schnapps and how many kids become alcoholics because of this stuff?

    1. Mine was Bartles & James wine coolers, which explains why I don’t drink much anymore.

      1. and thank you for your support.

  6. So you can vote, sign a contract, hold a job, die in battle at 18, but you need to be 21 to smoke, drink, purchase a gun.

    SMDH

  7. Only government can be so innately stupid as to believe that since they can’t keep 17 year olds from purchasing tobacco that they would do much better keeping 20 year olds from purchasing.

    “raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids…”

    But not nearly as ignorant as asshats such as this. I just heard a commercial on the radio for Goody’s Headache Powders advertising that they now come in flavors. I suppose Goody’s are trying to hook our youth on aspirin powders, because everyone knows that humans loose their taste buds upon turning age of majority.

  8. stupid an age like “21” or “18” dictates anything.

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