Tobacco 21 is a national campaign aimed at raising the minimum legal age (MLA) for tobacco and nicotine sales in the United States to 21. The Tobacco 21 campaign is produced and funded by the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, a public health nonprofit organization established in 1996. Tobacco 21 produces online content to promote anti-tobacco messages and helps communities around the United States raise the tobacco and nicotine sales age to 21.
Established in 1996, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation strives to reduce the terrible toll of smoking and tobacco use through a preventive effort.
Early exposure permanently alters neuro-receptors in the deepest, most ancient parts of the brain that then manifests as ongoing desire or addiction. Preventing that early inoculation requires a concerted societal and political strategy including school-based education, reduced media exposure, counter-marketing, tobacco and smoke free homes and public areas and youth access restrictions. Tobacco 21 vigorously supports all of those efforts in addition to our focus on raising the legal minimum sales age to 21.
The major scientific publication in support of Tobacco 21 is the Institute of Medicine's report "Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products", which concluded by saying:" if the MLA were raised now to 21 nationwide, there would be approximately 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019."
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine called Tobacco 21 "An idea whose time has come".
The following organizations have endorsed Tobacco 21 at the national level, either through their own statements or through endorsement of Senate Bill 2100, the federal act to raise the tobacco age to 21:
- Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
- American Heart Association
- American Lung Association
- American Medical Association
- Institute of Medicine
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
- Counter Tobacco
- Action on Smoking and Health
- Tobacco Control Legal Consortium
- Clearway Minnesota / Minnesotans For A Smoke Free Generation
- Oral Health America
- American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
- Academic Pediatric Association
- American Pediatric Society
- American Veterans (AMVETS)
- American Public Health Association
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Trust for America’s Health
- Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs
- First Focus Campaign for Children
- Pediatric Policy Council
- Society for Pediatric Research
- Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
- Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment
- Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
- Hawai‘i Medical Service Association
- Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i
The legislation of this bill arose after the Institute of Medicine released a report explaining that raising the age to 21 would have significant public health benefits. The report estimated that making the minimum age 21 would result in avoiding nearly 250,000 premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer among individuals born between 2000-2019.
Under the bill, anyone caught breaking the law faces a $10 fine for the first offense and a $50 fine or community service for a second offense. Retailers caught selling to individuals under the age of 21 pay penalties ranging from $500-$2,000.
A press release on the governor’s website explained the decision by referencing that in the United States, 95 percent of adults smokers begin smoking before the age of 21. Almost half of those become regular smokers before the age of 18 and another 25% become regular smokers between the ages of 18-21.
California became the second state to implement a statewide Tobacco 21 law. Governor Jerry Brown signed a group of bills on May 4, 2016. The bills were described as the “most expansive” attempt to regulate tobacco use within the state of California in over a decade. The bills were supported by various organizations and medical groups including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and California Medical Association. The bill was approved in a special health care session and became effective on June 9, 2016.
On October 1, 2018, Washington, D.C. raised the legal age of buying tobacco to 21. This was paired with raising the tax on cigarettes by 68% – to $4.94.
New York City
In November 2013, New York City enacted legislation that raised the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and also set a minimum price of $10.50 per pack of cigarettes, among other provisions. The law went into effect on May 18, 2014. The bill came with significant penalties for those who do not comply with the law. Failure to post required signage can result in fines of up to $500. Sales of cigarettes, other tobacco products or electronic cigarettes to people under age 21 can result in New York City fines of up to $1,000 for the first violation and any other violation found that same day, and up to $2,000 for the second violation and any subsequent violation within three years. A second violation may result in revocation of the cigarette retail dealer license. New York State may impose additional fines and penalties for sales of these products to people under age 18.
In March 2016, San Francisco joined the ranks of major American cities to pass an ordinance to raise the tobacco and nicotine sales age to 21. The ordinance went into effect on June 1, 2016. Eight days later, California's Tobacco 21 bill went into effect statewide.
A similar organization, named Tobacco21.ca, has the aim of increasing the legal age for buying tobacco products in Canada to 21.
- "Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation - About US". Tobacco 21. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- MyCentralOregon.com (March 18, 2016). "American Cancer Society Wants Oregon to Raise Tobacco Age". MyCentralOregon.com. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- ""Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products"" (PDF). nationalacademies.org. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Winickoff, Jonathan P.; Gottlieb, Mark; Mello, Michelle M. (23 January 2014). "Tobacco 21 — An Idea Whose Time Has Come". New England Journal of Medicine. 370 (4): 295–297. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1314626. PMID 24401021. Retrieved 11 February 2019 – via Taylor and Francis+NEJM.
- "INCREASING THE MINIMUM LEGAL SALE AGE FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO 21" (PDF). Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "States Should Heed Strong Support for Raising Tobacco Age of Sale, Says American Heart Association". American Heart Association. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Statement from National President and CEO of the American Lung Association Harold P. Wimmer, in response to the IOM Report "Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products"". American Lung Association. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
- "AMA Strengthens Policy on Electronic Cigarettes to Further Protect Youth". American Medical Association. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products". National Academies. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Tobacco Use, Prevention and Cessation". American Academy of Family Physicians. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "The American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Sweeping Recommendations on Tobacco and E-Cigarettes". American Academy of Pediatricians. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Senators Schatz, Durbin, Brown, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Raise Smoking Age to 21: Raising Smoking Age to 21 Would Lead to 4.2 Million Fewer Years of Life Lost". Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "RAISING THE MINIMUM LEGAL SALE AGE TO 21". Counter Tobacco. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Increasing the Minimum Age". Action on Smoking and Health. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "In Our View: Raise Smoking Age to 21". Action on Smoking and Health. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Sales Restrictions". Public Health Law Center. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Increasing the tobacco purchase age to 21" (PDF). Clearway Minnesota. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Take Action – Support Tobacco 21 Legislation". Oral Health America. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "Senators Schatz, Durbin, Brown, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Raise Smoking Age to 21: Raising Smoking Age to 21 Would Lead to 4.2 Million Fewer Years of Life Lost". Brian Schatz. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
- Pacific Business News (December 2015). "Hawaii to change legal age for tobacco sales to 21 on Jan. 1". Pacific Business News. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- CNN (April 2015). "Hawaii set to become first state to raise smoking age to 21 Sheet". CNN. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- LA Times (May 4, 2016). "California's smoking age raised from 18 to 21 under bills signed by Gov. Brown". LA Times. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- "New Law Prohibiting Sale of Cigarettes, Tobacco Products and Electronic Cigarettes to People Under Age 21 in New York City What You Need to Know" (PDF). New York City. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- Ellement, John. "Boston raises tobacco-buying age to 21". Boston Globe. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- "Chicago Raises Tobacco-Buying Age to 21". NBC Chicago. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- "City of Chicago :: Tobacco Regulations". www.cityofchicago.org. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- "KC, Wyandotte County raise legal age for tobacco purchases to 21". Kansas City Star. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- "Cleveland bans tobacco, e-cigarette sales to people under 21". cleveland.com.
- CNN (March 2016). "San Francisco raises smoking age to 21". CNN. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- "Tobacco21.ca". www.tobacco21.ca. Retrieved 11 February 2019.