On November 8, 2017, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced H.R. 4273. The next day, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced S. 2100. If passed, either bill would enact the “Tobacco to 21 Act.” The bills have been referred, respectively, to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
If enacted, the measures would institute a nationwide prohibition on the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of twenty-one. The prohibition would apply to “tobacco products” as broadly defined under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act: “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, including any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product (except for raw materials other than tobacco used in manufacturing a component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product).”
These proposals follow similar efforts in the states and their municipalities. Per the proposed congressional findings, “[f]ive States, the District of Columbia, and more than 230 localities in an additional 13 States have raised the minimum legal tobacco sale age to 21.” The bills would not prevent a state or municipality from enacting a law “at least as restrictive as the Federal law.”
This is not, however, the first attempt at pushing a “Tobacco to 21 Act” through Congress. Congresswoman DeGette and Senator Schatz introduced similar bills in September of 2015, during the last Congress. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce went as far as referring H.R. 3656 to the Subcommittee on Health (which took no further action), and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation took no further action on S. 2100.
It will remain to be seen how the “Tobacco to 21” bills fare in the present Congress. We will continue to monitor for further developments.