GOP lawmaker to propose raising tobacco age of sale to 21

A Republican lawmaker will introduce legislation this week that would raise tobacco age of sale requirements from 18 to 21. 

Rep. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtLobbying World House advances B agriculture bill Dems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts MORE (R-Ala.) said his intent is to keep tobacco products like e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers.

"It's these enterprising 18-year-olds that are selling to minors, and increasing the age to 21 will make it harder for this type of activity," Aderholt said at an appropriations hearing Wednesday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Aderholt cited data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that shows 15 to 17-year-olds are getting access to tobacco products from older friends who are legally allowed to purchase them. 

The bill would mandate a uniform age of purchase for tobacco products to 21-years-old across all states and territories, Aderholt's chief of staff said.

It would also tighten age verification of online sales of tobacco products and require adults to sign for deliveries.

Democrats in Congress have long tried to raise the minimum tobacco buying age from 18, with bills introduced in the past by Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide Key Senate Democrats unveil sweeping online privacy bill MORE (D-Hawaii) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteDemocrats request info on Google-Ascension partnership Trump health chief declines to detail ObamaCare replacement plan A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal MORE (D-Colo.).

But this is the first time such a bill will be introduced by a Republican in Congress. 

Tobacco company Altria and Juul, an e-cigarette company, recently announced support for raising the age to 21, in the face of potential regulation from the FDA.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has accused e-cigarette companies of marketing their products to minors, threatening to pull some products off the market if the situation doesn't approve.

Gottlieb, who is leaving the FDA at the end of this week, said the agency will wait for more data to come out before deciding how to move forward. 

If youth e-cigarette use continues to increase in 2019, Gottlieb said Wednesday at the hearing, "we're going to be stepping into the market with additional regulation."