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The Legal Smoking Age In The US Is Changing To 21

The number of teens using e-cigarettes has nearly doubled from last year.

Posted on December 19, 2019, at 1:16 p.m. ET

Mike Segar / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The legal age in the US to smoke will rise to 21 next year, according to a new law passed by Congress on Thursday. The age increase will cover cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and all other tobacco products.

President Donald Trump voiced support for the change in November and is expected to sign the bill in the coming days, part of a larger spending bill that will prevent a federal government shutdown. The nationwide increase in the legal smoking age, now 18 but already higher in almost half of all states, has long been a goal of anti-smoking advocates and has bipartisan support.

While cigarette smoking has declined among high school seniors — only around 3.6% smoke daily — the use of e-cigarettes has nearly doubled from last year, with 20.9% reporting such use in the last month. That increase, along with a nationwide outbreak of unrelated but deadly lung injuries among people buying illicit vaping products, largely THC liquids, has spurred the legal age increase. Some tobacco firms have even supported the move, as does the American Vaping Association.

American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer hailed the age increase in a statement on the measure, but added, "ultimately, more must be done by both Congress and the Trump Administration if our nation is to halt the youth e-cigarette epidemic."

The spending bill passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday and then the Senate on Thursday. The age increase should take effect nationwide in about nine months, after the bill is signed.


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