Raising Federal Purchase Age of Tobacco Products to 21 Holds Promise If Done Correctly

April 19, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Media reports indicate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to introduce legislation to raise the purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.  Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) issued the following statement:

“We’re encouraged to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognize the youth tobacco use crisis in our country and voice his support for one important strategy to curb youth initiation by raising the age of sale of all tobacco products to 21. Leader McConnell’s support for raising the age of sale comes as a bipartisan effort, led by Senator Young and Senator Schatz, to address the problem of underage sales of tobacco products by retailers is being prepared for introduction. With tobacco use being the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, and youth access to addictive tobacco products now a serious public health epidemic, we hope lawmakers in Congress can advance a strong Tobacco 21 bill with broad bipartisan support.

“It’s vital that any federal legislation on this issue remain free of provisions or carveouts that would benefit the tobacco industry. Specifically, federal legislation must not preempt any state or local government from enacting and enforcing its own strong tobacco control laws; all tobacco products that are currently on the market, or may be introduced to the market, must be covered under a federal law; enforcement efforts must target retailers, not youth, and include education, training and penalties; and sales should be prohibited to all youth under the age of 21 without exceptions in order to prevent a lifelong, deadly addiction.

“ACS CAN supports legislation that protects youth from the dangers of tobacco and does not benefit the tobacco industry. We look forward to working with Majority Leader McConnell and Senators Young and Schatz to pass a strong bill to protect our children from the dangers of tobacco use.”  


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Mike VanDenHeuvel
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Washington, D.C.