This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the “Tobacco-Free Youth Act” which will work to protect youth from tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems by raising the national age of sale to from 18 to 21. ASCO endorsed the legislation in a letter from ASCO President Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO.
In the letter, ASCO commended Senators McConnell and Kaine for the bill’s valuable contribution to protect the public health. The latest findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) reported that approximately 5 million middle and high school students reported currently use a tobacco product, with over 3.6 million currently using e-cigarettes and about half (2.5 million) currently using a combustible tobacco product.
In addition to the “Tobacco-Free Youth Act,” ASCO has endorsed the “Tobacco to 21 Act,” which was introduced in April in the House by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO-1), Steve Cohen (D-TN-9), Chris Stewart (R-UT-2), and Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3), and in the Senate by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). This bill would also raise the purchasing age of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
ASCO commends both bipartisan bills and looks forward to working with lawmakers on securing their passage.
In addition to supporting federal legislation, the Society has partnered with several state societies on legislation to raise the legal age of the purchase and consumption. As of May 15, 2019, thirteen states – Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, Washington, Maryland 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.
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).
- 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.