Tobacco-Free Youth Act Introduced in Senate

Bipartisan legislation introduced May 21 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) would raise the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, from 18 to 21. The Tobacco-Free Youth Act would also allow states to enact stricter laws if they choose.

In a statement, ACC President Richard J. Kovacs, MD, FACC, thanked the senators for their efforts and noted ACC's commitment to reducing youth tobacco usage given its association with heart disease and an estimated six million deaths a year. "We believe it is also important to remember that while there are plenty of data on the impact of conventional cigarettes, the public health, policymaking and scientific communities are still determining the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes – the use of which is growing rapidly among America's youth," he said. "The Tobacco-Free Youth Act of 2019 will help prevent chronic disease and protect public health by restricting youth access to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes."

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of medical societies like the ACC, as well as public health groups. A joint letter from the ACC, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and Trust for America's Health, expresses support for the bill calling it "one, among several, important federal policy changes needed to address the public health crisis of tobacco use in the United States, including prohibiting the manufacture and sale of all flavored tobacco products; restricting online sale of all tobacco products, particularly to underage purchasers; and increasing funding of the prevention and cessation activities of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health." The groups urge the Senate not to weaken the legislation as it moves forward, as well as request that the legislation require FDA to finalize a rule within 180 days after the date of enactment.

The Tobacco-Free Youth Act joins other recently introduced legislation aimed at curbing youth tobacco use. The Tobacco to 21 Act was introduced last month by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO) and Rep. Chris Stewart (UT). Additionally, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL)  recently introduced the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 which would not only raise the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco but also mandate graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and extend the FDA's regulation of tobacco products, among other provisions.

Tobacco 21 legislation continues to move ahead at the state level as well, with Maryland and Vermont joining the growing number of states with some form of Tobacco 21 legislation enacted into law. New York is likely next, with a bill awaiting signature from the governor. Legislation making its way through the Connecticut and Texas legislatures also looks positive. Tobacco legislation continues to be a key focus and priority for the College and its state chapters. Learn more about Tobacco 21 efforts and follow @Cardiology on Twitter for updates.

Keywords: Tobacco, Public Health, Neoplasms, Tobacco Products, Smoking, Tobacco Use, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.

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