ASCO Endorses Tobacco 21 Bills Introduced in Both Chambers

May 8, 2019

Last month, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced companion bills (H.R. 2411/S. 1258) in the House and Senate to raise the legal age of purchasing tobacco to 21. ASCO has endorsed this legislation as a part of its ongoing commitment to policies that reduced the prevalence of tobacco use and occurrence of cancer and other smoking-caused diseases.

As of May 1, 2019, twelve states – Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, Washington and Virginia– have raised the tobacco sale age to 21, along with at least 450 localities in over 25 states and territories. Raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 has proven successful at reducing youth tobacco use¹. A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine predicted that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 would, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent. It would reduce smoking-related deaths by 10 percent. After Needham, Massachusetts enacted the nation’s first Tobacco 21 law in 2015, smoking rates decreased by 47% —a rate three times as much seen in towns surrounding Needham1,2.  Additionally, the year following Tobacco 21 implementation in Chicago, the city saw a 36% decrease in 18-20-year olds that reported currently smoking cigarettes3.

In addition to legislative efforts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that raising the legal age of purchasing tobacco to 21 years old is a priority for him this year. ASCO and the greater tobacco control community have agreed to support clean Tobacco 21 bills at this time and work with Congress as these efforts move forward.

In addition to these federal efforts, the Society has partnered with several state societies on legislation to raise the legal age of the purchase and consumption. This year, ASCO also weighed in on the enactment of Tobacco-21 legislation and the widespread use of tobacco use among youth with a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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  1. Schneider, Shari Kessel, et al. "Community reductions in youth smoking after raising the minimum tobacco sales age to 21." Tobacco control 25.3 (2016): 355-359.  
  2. Jonathan P. Winickoff, et al. “Retail Impact of Raising Tobacco Sales Age to 21 Years” American Journal of Public Health 104 (2014) e18_e21,
  3. Healthy Chicago Data Brief 2017 Youth Tobacco Use. (n.d.). Chicago, IL: Chicago Department of Public Health.