U.S. Congress raises legal age for tobacco purchases to 21

Posted on: 1/10/20

Tucked into an already packed end-of-year budget agreement, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, H.R. 1865 into law raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. The change affects the sale of all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vaping cartridges, and smokeless tobacco. It is anticipated that there will be an increased demand for cessation support, including medications and counseling, for Oklahoma tobacco users currently under the age of 21.

Oklahoma was one of 31 states that had not previously adopted a state level law banning tobacco sales to residents under the age of 21. According to the American Lung Association, 94% of adult smokers had their first cigarette prior to 21 with over 80% having tried a cigarette before the age of 18. Increasing the age of purchase will reduce youth tobacco use, thus decreasing the number of regular smokers and preventing thousands of premature deaths over time.

On a related note, last week the Food and Drug Administration placed a ban on the sale of fruit and mint flavored e-cigarette cartridges that will go into effect in early February. This ban does not, however, cover tank-based systems that are found in vape shops where anyone 21 and older can purchase them. Menthol and tobacco-flavored products are not covered under the ban and will remain available in both cartridges and tanks.

If your hospital would like assistance with tobacco-free policies or cessation initiatives, email OHA’s Hospitals Helping Patients Quit team at hhpq@okoha.com