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Why We Need Strong Tobacco 21 Laws

two women standing against a blue wall flexing their arm muscles

Across the United States, we have seen towns, cities and states join the movement to increase the legal sales age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 years old. Tobacco 21 laws are popular, with Americans recognizing that these laws will help prevent our kids from starting to use tobacco products and save hundreds of thousands of lives if implemented nationwide. We’re currently pushing for a federal Tobacco 21 law, but until that day comes the focus is on passing laws to increase the sales age to 21 in states.

Everyone largely supports Tobacco 21 laws; however Big Tobacco is actively working to weaken these laws. Why? The tobacco industry has long been marketing their addictive products to kids, and now Big Tobacco is trying to water down Tobacco 21 bills, so kids can continue to access these addictive products—ensuring the industry future customers and profits.

As we have seen in several states, tobacco lobbyists are pushing for loopholes such as:

  • Stopping towns and localities from passing other tobacco control measures
  • Weakening proposed Tobacco 21 laws so they cannot be enforced
  • Pushing for measures that penalize youth for the use or possession of tobacco products (rather than punishing the tobacco companies for intentionally marketing to kids)
  • Excluding certain types of tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes
  • Creating exemptions for those serving in the military (when even the Department of Defense said tobacco use harms troop readiness)

Tobacco 21 laws will save lives, but we need strong Tobacco 21 laws without all these loopholes.

    group of students in front of capitol building
    group of students holding #UpTheAgeWV sign

The American Lung Association stands with parents, physicians and teachers to protect our kids. We are calling on states and local communities to resist efforts by tobacco lobbyists to weaken these proposals, and instead pass strong Tobacco 21 laws that will protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction as well as the death and disease associated with tobacco products.

As we face this youth e-cigarette epidemic, action now is critical. Kids are especially vulnerable to the impacts of tobacco use. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned about the dangers to developing lungs by inhaling the chemical cocktail found in e-cigarettes. We also know nicotine has been found to negatively impact brain development.

Today, if a law is being driven by the tobacco lobbyists rather than the American Lung Association and our health partners, you can bet something is in it for Big Tobacco. We’re here to protect the health of our youth, so follow us on Twitter and sign our petition to keep up to date on policies we’re pursuing to protect your lung health.

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Related Topic: Tobacco & Smoking

  • Harold P. Wimmer
    National President and CEO
    Harold P. Wimmer is National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, the nation's oldest voluntary health association, working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.
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