In 2020, the legal age to buy cigarettes and e-cigarettes will increase to 21. Historically, it's been left up to individual states to set age-limits on both smoking and drinking, with 19 states and Washington D.C. paving the way with a legal smoking age of 21. Citing a rise in vape-related illness and death, a bipartisan group of Congresspeople, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, attached the smoking ban to a landmark Defense Spending bill, ensuring it would be passed. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on December 20, 2019. Also included in the Defense Spending bill is a law allowing 12 weeks paid parental leave for federal employees.
In 2019, vape and e-cigarette use by minors hit a record high. A recent survey from the National Institutes of Health found that 1 in 4 high school seniors, 1 in 5 sophomores, and 1 in 10 eighth-graders had reported vaping nicotine products in the preceding month. As use climbed, so did instances of a mystery vape-related illness that left many minors hospitalized and resulted in several deaths.
Proponents of the new bill approve of efforts to curb youth smoking. "The Vapor Technology Association has advocated for raising the age to 21 for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and believes, along with the public health groups, that this is the most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use," Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, said in an emailed statement to CNN on Friday.
"VTA stands ready to continue working with Congress on the many real solutions (rather than a misguided flavor ban agenda), that should be implemented to achieve the twin goals of restricting youth vaping and preserving flavored vapor as an alternative for adults desperately trying to quit smoking," Abboud's statement said.
In a written statement, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that without also banning flavored e-cigarettes the minimum age increase will do little to decrease youth smoking.
"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," Myers said.
"To reverse the e-cigarette epidemic, policymakers must prohibit flavored e-cigarettes and cannot be limited by what the tobacco industry says is acceptable," the statement said. "The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes are driving the youth epidemic. Most youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and cite flavors as a key reason for their use. As long as flavored e-cigarettes remain available, kids will find ways to get them and this epidemic will continue."