WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today joined Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in introducing the Tobacco to 21 Act, bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21. A summary of the Tobacco to 21 Act is available here.
“Raising the federal smoking age to 21 is an important step toward keeping harmful tobacco products out of our children’s hands and protecting them from a lifetime of addiction,” Senator Romney said. “I’m proud that my home state of Utah was one of the first states to raise the federal smoking age to 21. It’s time for the rest of the country to follow its lead.”
“The nationwide epidemic of tobacco and electronic cigarette use among high school and middle school students can no longer be ignored. Roughly 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 21, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year. More must be done at the federal level to prevent future smokers from starting, and experts consistently recommend raising the tobacco age as a top priority to protect our kids and reduce health care costs,” said Senator Young.
“The research is clear: raising the minimum smoking age to 21 would save lives,” said Senator Schatz. “Hawai‘i became the first state to raise the age limit, and since then, 11 other states have joined us. Our bipartisan bill would bring all 50 states together, so we can protect our young people from this addiction, and save lives.”
“With Big Tobacco constantly targeting our youth through new and flavored products, it’s no surprise that nearly all tobacco users began their addiction as kids or young adults,” said Senator Durbin. “Across Illinois and the country, cities and states are fighting back with common sense policies to shield kids from a lifetime of addiction. By raising the federal tobacco age of sale to 21, we can help prevent a new generation from tobacco-related disease, health care costs, and death. This is a good step, but not the last step — the kid-friendly flavors in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products have got to go.”
Every day, approximately 1,300 people die from smoking-related diseases, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Research from the National Academy of Medicine shows that raising the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 nationwide would reduce the number of new tobacco users, decrease smoking frequency by 12 percent, and save more than 220,000 lives from deaths related to smoking. Approximately ninety-five percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Chris Stewart (R-UT).
“The American Lung Association strongly supports the Tobacco to 21 Act introduced today, and thanks Senators Schatz, Young, Durbin, and Romney, and Representatives DeGette and Stewart for taking this step to protect public health. This legislation comes at a critical time - our youth face an e-cigarette epidemic, and increasing the minimum age of sale to 21 will help reduce the number of young people who use and become addicted to tobacco products,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association.
“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Tobacco to 21 Act, and we applaud Sen. Schatz, Sen. Young, Sen. Durbin, and Sen. Romney for introducing this bipartisan legislation to help prevent young people from starting down a path that often leads to addiction, disease and premature death,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Raising the tobacco age to 21 is an important component of a comprehensive strategy to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue reducing tobacco use in the United States. As 95 percent of adult smokers start smoking before turning 21, this legislation will help prevent young people from using tobacco and save lives.”
“The Tobacco to 21 Act takes bold and necessary action to reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “With 95 percent of tobacco users having started their life-threatening habit before age 21, raising the minimum sales age for all tobacco products to 21 nationwide will reduce tobacco use, nicotine addiction and tobacco-related disease and death. The American Heart Association is proud to support this important public health legislation, and we are grateful to Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) for their leadership on this issue. This bill is an essential step in reaching the tobacco endgame of eliminating tobacco use and nicotine addiction in our nation.”
The Tobacco to 21 Act is supported by the Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Pediatric Society, American Public Health Association, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, First Focus Campaign for Children, National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network, Pediatric Policy Council, Society for Pediatric Research, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Association of County and City Health Officials, and Trust for America’s Health.