Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products

In March 2015, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) issued a report looking at the impact increasing the age of sale for tobacco products could have on youth tobacco use rates. The report concluded that increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 nationwide could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer.1

A grade was awarded in this category based on whether the federal government had increased the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. The letter grade received deductions based on if groups, like active duty military, were exempted from the age of sale of 21. The federal government would receive an automatic F grade if some tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes were exempted from the age of sale increase, preemption on state or local governments from raising the age of sale was imposed or the age of sale was 19 or 20 years old.

Grade breaks down as follows:
A = age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age with no exceptions;
B = age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age, but certain groups, such as active duty military are exempted;
F = age of sale for tobacco products is below 21 years of age, some tobacco products are exempted from the age of sale to 21 increase or preemption on state or local governments concerning tobacco sales age increases is imposed.

  1. Institute of Medicine, Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015, http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2015/TobaccoMinimumAgeReport.aspx.

Page last updated: March 17, 2020

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