Americans under the age of 21 will now be barred from purchasing tobacco products.
On Thursday, Congress passed a year-end congressional spending bill with a provision to raise the purchasing age for all tobacco products — including cigarettes and e-cigarettes — from 18 to 21, multiple outlets report. The House approved the spending bill on Tuesday by a 297 to 120 margin, and the Senate followed suit Thursday afternoon.
The measure had bipartisan support in Congress, including from Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. President Donald Trump has also previously supported the idea of raising the legal tobacco-buying age, according to the Washington Post.
The Post reports that the measure was first introduced by McConnell and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia in May, but has picked up more support after the recent wave of vaping-related illnesses and deaths.
Kaine celebrated the news on Twitter.
“Our bill to raise the tobacco age to 21 just passed!” he tweeted on Thursday. “This is an enormous victory for the health of young people. By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use. A big step forward to improve public health.”
Our bill to raise the tobacco age to 21 just passed! This is an enormous victory for the health of young people. By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use. A big step forward to improve public health.— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) December 19, 2019
McConnell said that interest in the bill increased after the rise of vaping-related illnesses over the last six months.
“Since I introduced my legislation earlier this year to raise the minimum nationwide purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, stories of vaping related illnesses and deaths — especially among young people — have stunned Kentucky and the nation,” McConnell said in a statement.
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“I’m grateful to the communities, the health advocates and my fellow elected officials, including President Trump and Senators Todd Young and Mitt Romney, who have joined Senator Kaine and me to address this urgent crisis and keep these dangerous products away from our children,” the statement continued.
According to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, there are already state laws in 19 states, plus Washington, D.C., that prevent tobacco sales to anyone under 21. Hundreds of cities have also raised the age.