State Update

Institute of Medicine to Study Raising the Minimum Age to Purchase Tobacco Products

(Local Policy, State Policy) Permanent link   All Posts

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) will establish a committee of public health, medical and other experts to conduct a study and prepare a report to be issued to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) on the likely public health impact of raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products. The CTP will use the study report as a basis for creating its own report to Congress. The IOM committee will undertake the following tasks:

  1. Examine existing literature on tobacco-use initiation and;
  2. Use modeling and other methods, as appropriate, to predict the likely public health outcomes of raising the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products to 21 years and 25 years.

To learn more about the IOM committee, click here.

The issue of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco is also being discussed both on the local and state levels across the country. Below are examples of local legislation that has been approved and state legislation that is currently being discussed.

Local Legislation

On October 30, the New York City Council approved legislation, by a 36-9 vote, to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 years old. According to the City Council, in New York City, 80% of adults who become daily smokers start smoking before reaching the age of 21. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) signed the bill on November 19.

On December 19, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi approved a bill raising the age to purchase tobacco. The law goes into effect on July 1 and will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people younger than age 21. The Mayor’s approval follows the unanimous 9-0 passage of Bill 135 by the Hawaii County Council on November 20. The new law does not make it illegal for people under age 21 to smoke, instead it penalizes retail stores for selling tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes to persons under age 21. Retailers selling to underage customers would be subject to a $500 fine for the first offense and from $500 to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. The new law includes a grandfather period for those already older than 18, the current age at which federal law allows people to buy tobacco.

State Legislation

S.B. 2029, sponsored by Sens. Russell Ruderman (D-HI) and Josh Green (D-HI), increases the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, from 18 to 21. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health and the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection for consideration. Both committees are recommending that the bill be passed as amended.

S. 602, sponsored by Sens. Richard J. Codey (D-NJ) and Joseph F. Vitale (D-NJ), raises the minimum age for purchase and sale of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21. The bill has been referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee for consideration.

S.B. 12 sponsored by Sen. Stuart C. Reid (R-UT) prohibits the possession of tobacco, e-cigarettes or paraphernalia by an individual less than 21 years of age. The bill also prohibits the distribution or sale of tobacco, e-cigarettes or paraphernalia to an individual less than 21 years of age and prohibits a person less than 21 years of age from being present at certain establishments where tobacco, e-cigarettes or paraphernalia are sold or used. The bill was introduced on January 27, and has been referred to committee for consideration.

Vermont H. 616 sponsored by 26 legislators seeks to increase the smoking age from 18 to 21 years except for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. H. 605, sponsored by seven representatives, proposes to raise to 21 the legal age for the purchase, possession, and furnishing of tobacco products and tobacco substitutes. Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on Human Services for consideration.