President Donald Trump signed a provision Dec. 20 saying anyone under the age of 21 can no longer legally buy any tobacco products in the United States. The change means people between the ages of 18 and 20 who could once legally purchase cigars, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges are now underage. The new regulation is one of the latest efforts to curb teen smoking and vaping amid an outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries.
In Wisconsin, last year legislators from both parties started seeking to set the age to buy tobacco and vaping products at 21. Before federal law set in, eighteen states had established 21 as the age to buy tobacco and vaping products. Assembly Bill 422, which would have raised the age in Wisconsin, saw much support but did face some skepticism from both Republicans and Democrats. It was discussed whether the age should in fact be raised or whether teen vaping sales and marketing should be more highly regulated.
However, before Christmas the U.S. Congress hiked the minimum age to 21 as part of the federal budget that Trump signed and federal law took over.
Following the announcement of the law, many retailers quickly made changes to comply, posting signs to remind customers of the change.
Mary Boe from Polk County’s Public Health Department said, “The guidance we’ve been given is that while the Wisconsin law has not been changed to match the new Federal law, Wisconsin retailers who sell nicotine products must immediately comply with the Federal law by not selling these products to those under 21 years old. Raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21yrs old is estimated to decrease the start of smoking by teens under 18 years old by 25% and those 18-20 years old by 15 percent. I think we can all agree that nicotine addiction is not something we want for the youth in our lives. We know that 80% of adult nicotine users started before they turned 18 and 95% started before they turned 21. The new law is an important tool to keep people healthy.”
She also said she is encouraging individual retailers to contact their local law enforcement or the sheriff’s department with additional questions.