In an effort to curb the use of tobacco products among youth, Congress has passed a law that would increase the smoking age in the United States to 21.
The provision about raising the smoking age to 21 was included in sweeping spending legislation that passed in the House earlier this week and will prevent a government shutdown. The age restriction will extend to all tobacco products, including traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law, the New York Times reported.
The measure comes as the U.S. grapples with an ongoing increase in the number of teens who use tobacco-related products, specifically e-cigarettes. According to findings from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 5 million youth are currently using e-cigarettes, with 1 million using the product every day. While the report found that just 5.8 percent of high schoolers use cigarettes, a staggering 27.5 percent were reported to be using e-cigarettes. The majority of these youth users cited Juul as the product they use most.
Juul has been the ongoing target of health regulators who claim that the company targeted children in its advertising, an accusation that’s triggered state and federal inquiries and led to multiple lawsuits. Juul, for its part, has said it supports raising the age limit on tobacco products, likely so that it can continue selling its products at all.
Senator Tim Kaine, who introduced the legislation with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, commended the Senate’s approval of the measure this week.
“Passage of this lifesaving legislation is an enormous victory for the health of our young people. By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use,” Kaine said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the work of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and all the Virginians who made their voices heard to join us in this critical effort to improve public health. This is one of many steps we should take to tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic that touches every corner of our nation.”