21 & Over: Impact of increasing age for buying tobacco products
SAN ANGELO, TX – After President Trump signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21 nationwide. But the campaign to increase the legal age to 21 has been going on for years.
Before the amendment was passed by Congress and signed by the President, 16 states and the District of Columbia had already raised the minimum age. In Texas, Senate Bill 21 was passed back in September that raised the legal age.
The Senate bill considered any person under 21 a minor, but did allow for two exclusions in the state:
- individuals who are at least 18 years of age and in the United States military forces or state military forces and show at the time of purchase a valid military identification card
- individuals born on or before Aug. 31, 2001. For example, a person who was 18 years of age or older before Sept. 1, 2019, can purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products.
The new law also allowed minors to possess tobacco products in the presence of a parent, a guardian, or a spouse.
If retailers were found to violate the new regulation, the Comptroller’s office could suspend or revoke the permit for that place of business or assess a fine up to $1,000 per violation. Minor who violated the tobacco law could be fined up to $100 and be required to attend a tobacco awareness program or participate in tobacco-related community service.
The American Lung Association details a few of the reasons why it would make a difference to raise the age to 21.
- Virtually all (94 percent) of adult smokers had their first cigarette before turning 21, and most (81 percent) before age 18.
- Smokers aged 18 and 19 years old are often a supplier for younger kids who rely on friends, classmates, and peers to buy tobacco products. Since students do not typically reach 21 years old while still in high school, increasing the age of sale would greatly reduce the number of high school students who could purchase tobacco products.
- Increasing the sales age for tobacco products to 21 will help counter the tobacco industry's efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking.
- A national sales age of 21 for alcohol sales resulted in reduced alcohol consumption among youth, decreased alcohol dependence and has led to a dramatic reduction in drunk driving fatalities. It's predicted that raising the national sales age for tobacco products will have similar effects.
The Institute of Medicine of The National Academics released a report in March of 2015 that addressed the public health implications of increasing the age.
- Tobacco use would decrease by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers were adults and smoking-related deaths will decrease by 10 percent.
- Smoking initiation will be reduced by 25 percent for 15-17 year-olds and 15 percent for 18-20 year-olds.
- Nationwide, it could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer.
The new amendment will take effect at some point this year and retailers all across the country will be forced to comply with the new regulations, but much confusion exists regarding what the new law will mean as state and federal laws take a different stance on the issue for both stores and consumers.
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