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Bill Reintroduced to Raise Tobacco Sale Age to 21

November 8, 2017, 12:25 PM HST (Updated November 8, 2017, 12:30 PM) · 27 Comments
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US Senator Brian Schatz of Hawai‘i joined in reintroducing the Tobacco to 21 Act, bicameral federal legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

Maui Now graphic.

In 2015, Hawaiʻi became the first state in the nation to raise the age limit from 18 to 21.  Since then, four other states have joined in enacting similar legislation.

Sen. Schatz said research shows that raising the minimum smoking age to 21 would save lives.  “This bill would bring all 50 states together, so we can protect our young people from this addiction, and save lives in the process,” said Sen. Schatz.  He joined Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Colorado Representative Diana DeGette in reintroducing the federal legislation.

“With Big Tobacco constantly targeting our youth through new and flavored products, it’s no surprise that nearly all tobacco users began their addiction as kids or young adults,” said Sen. Durbin. “Across Illinois and the country, cities and states are fighting back with common-sense policies to shield kids from a lifetime of addiction. By raising the federal tobacco age of sale to 21, we can help prevent a new generation from tobacco-related disease, health care costs, and death.”

“Smoking is a deadly, addictive habit that can harm human health even in limited amounts,” Representative DeGette said. “It is especially hazardous to developing bodies. Why on earth would we wish to expose our young people to its dangers? As federal legislators, it is our moral obligation to ensure that the law does not favor the tobacco industry over the health and safety of our nation’s youth. This bill would go a long way to keeping carcinogens out of young people’s hands – and throats, and lungs.”

Supporters of the legislation that that every day, approximately 1,300 people die from smoking-related diseases, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Lawmakers advocating for the measure say research from the National Academy of Medicine shows that the measure would reduce the number of new tobacco users, decrease smoking frequency by 12%, and save more than 220,000 lives from deaths related to smoking. Supporting lawmakers say that currently, 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21.

In the Senate, the legislation (S.2100) is cosponsored by US Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D- Hawai‘i), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.). Companion legislation (H.R.4273) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai‘i).

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For a summary of the Tobacco to 21 Act, click here.

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