The McConnell-Kaine bill is part of a larger national effort to address youth tobacco use. Two additional bills are also moving to restrict flavored tobacco products, another key driver of the growth of teen vaping. So far, 16 states and the District
have increased their tobacco-purchasing age to 21.
However, as the difficulties in enforcing underage alcohol consumption have shown, enforcement remains a key concern. A study by medical journal JAMA Pediatrics found that, in an undercover operation, half the tobacco and vape stores in California failed to check for identification when selling nicotine products to young people, even though the state raised the tobacco-purchase age to 21. Age verifications on tobacco product-selling websites also need to be strengthened.
Increasing the legal age will not change the corporate marketing habits that have targeted young people for decades, and the federal government must remain vigilant against any attempt to weaken tobacco regulation. The FDA must also clamp down on flavored tobacco — the gateway to usage — in youth markets and ensure a pre-market review of all products.
Raising the smoking age must be one part of a comprehensive strategy that also looks at access and marketing to tackle this public-health crisis.
Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke cause
more than 480,000 preventable deaths each year — more than opiate overdoses, gun violence and automobile crashes combined. Congressional action to curb underage tobacco use is long overdue.