Bill to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 Introduced in U.S. Senate

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A bill to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21-years-old nationwide has been introduced in the United States Senate, and it comes from a senator whose state recently passed a similar increase.

Yesterday, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced S.2100, which seeks to prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. Following its initial two readings, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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The Tobacco to 21 Act, as it is being called, states simply that “notwithstanding any other provision of law, including any Federal regulation, it shall be unlawful to sell or distribute a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21.”

Enforcement would be handled by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and would include compliance checks, retailer inspections and establishing requirements that retailers check the identification of anyone attempting to purchase a tobacco product, as well as applying penalties under section 303 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The bill, which can be read in its entirety here, has already gained nine co-sponsors: Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Mazie J. Hirono, D-Hawaii; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

“S. 2100 follows a state legislative trend we’ve seen throughout the United States,” said Kip Talley, senior director of federal legislative affairs for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR). “We don’t expect this legislation to get much traction in the current Congress, but IPCPR will continue to monitor any developments.”

In April, Hawaii passed a law increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, a change that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. While many other states have seen legislation proposed, Hawaii will be the only state with a minimum purchasing age of 21.

A companion bill, H.R. 3656, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and has already gained three cosponsors: Reps. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

This story was updated with information about the companion bill.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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