Snuffed out

Though 18-year-olds can join the U.S. military and vote, they must now wait until age 21 to purchase tobacco.

They may be old enough to vote and enlist in the military, but 18-year-olds in the U.S. will now have to wait an extra three years to purchase tobacco products after a new law upping the age restriction to 21 went into effect at the end of 2019.

President Trump signed a defense spending bill Friday, Dec. 20, which included a provision to raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

“It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21,” the Food and Drug Administration stated.

Alabama already had a higher age restriction at 19 but will now have to comply with the new federal law.

“I personally think Alabama had it right at 19,” Gordon Tinsley, owner of The Vape Place in Boaz, said. “Kids in high school are typically out of high school by age 19. Many are 18 and still in school … I understand that nicotine is a stimulant, but it doesn’t alter your mind like alcohol does … If we say that an adult is age 18-19, then they should be allowed to make adult decisions regardless if we agree with them.

“By making tobacco [purchase age] 21, I personally believe that you shouldn’t be able to vote, join the military, sign legal documents until 21,” he continued. “If we are going to raise the adult age on some issue, it should be the same across the board.”

The new restriction does apply to vaping devices and liquids containing nicotine, but there is still some confusion whether or not customers under 21 can buy e-juice without nicotine, Tinsley said — something he hopes to have clarified soon.

The decision to increase the age restriction was pushed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Todd Young, R-Indiana; Richard Durbin, D-Illinois; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

McConnell first introduced a bill to combat teen smoking in April. The bill’s supporters were finally able to attach it to the December defense spending bill, which needed to pass to avoid a government shutdown.

According to Trump, the $738 billion bill also included paid paternity leave for federal workers, a pay raise for military personnel, creation of the Space Force, southern border wall funding and repealed the “Cadillac Tax” — a 40% tax on high-valued, employer-sponsored health plans, which was to go into effect in 2022.

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