Vermont becomes 14th state to raise tobacco buying age to 21

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Vermont becomes 14th state to raise tobacco buying age to 21

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 3:06pm -- Anonymous

New law includes all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and aims to save lives and millions in healthcare costs

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed legislation yesterday making Vermont the 14th state in the nation to raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. The law, known as Tobacco 21, was approved on April 30 2019, by the General Assembly and is expected to decrease the rate of tobacco use among teens by 12 percent.   

Scott has signed two related bills into law that will protect health and save lives. The tobacco 21 law takes effect on September 1. The other prohibits the online sale of e-cigarettes to Vermont consumers. That will take effect July 1.

Deborah Brown, Chief Mission Officer of the American Lung Association (, praised the move as an important one for statewide public health policy.

“Today, the State of Vermont took a significant step in protecting the health and wellness of its residents – and we are proud to congratulate Phil Scott and the Vermont legislature for their bold leadership in protecting young people from a dangerous addiction to tobacco. We already know that adolescents and young adults have proven to be uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, making this legislation an important, lifesaving measure. With the rise of easily concealable devices and fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products, Tobacco 21 is more important now than ever before in order to protect children, reduce smoking rates, save on healthcare costs and prevent tobacco-related death and disease. We are eager to celebrate the passage of this law in Vermont, and will continue our work in fighting for it across the nation.”

The new law was introduced this session by Senators Virginia Lyons and Deborah Ingram, following a December 2018 announcement by the U.S. Surgeon General calling youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. According the announcement, e-cigarette use increased by a staggering 78 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018. The report warned that this dramatic change in youth tobacco use could set the stage for another generation of Americans addicted to tobacco products and ultimately more tobacco-caused death and disease.

Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy in Vermont for the American Lung Association said, “According to the American Lung Association’s 2019 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report, over 18 percent of Vermont’s high school students reported using tobacco products. This law gives us a real opportunity to reduce that number, and prevent more tobacco addiction among our younger generations. Simply, raising the age of sale will reduce the consumption, availability and visibility of these products to our young people – and sends a clear message to parents and guardians that all tobacco products are dangerous and have significant health impacts.

Nearly 95 percent of adult smokers report trying their first cigarette before the age of 21. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s #1 cancer killer.

American Cancer Society Cancer Acton Network (ACS CAN) Vermont Government Relations Director Jennifer Costa released the following statement:

“ACS CAN applauds Governor Scott and the state legislature for acting to protect the lives and the health of our residents by passing and enacting these measures. This year alone 4,000 Vermonters will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,500 will lose their lives to cancer. These new laws will help address the boom in youth e-cigarette use and save lives.

“E-cigarette use among young people in Vermont has nearly doubled. A 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s report concluded ‘e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults, particularly combustible tobacco products.’ ACS CAN is concerned that e-cigarette use is creating a new generation of Vermonters who will suffer from a deadly, lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco products.

“On behalf of all Vermonters, I thank Governor Scott for enacting these life-saving laws.”

To date, statewide Tobacco 21 policies have been passed in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington, requiring consumers to be 21 years of age to purchase tobacco products.  Other states such as New York and Connecticut are currently considering similar legislation. The Vermont law is slated to go into effect on September 1.

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.

JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns also released a statement in support of the legislation: "We applaud the Governor and the Vermont General Assembly for enacting legislation to raise the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21, making Vermont the eighth state to take this important step in 2019.

"We won't succeed in providing the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth-use continues unabated. Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem – sharing by legal-age peers – and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth-use rates. That is why we are committed to working with lawmakers to enact these effective policies and hope more jurisdictions follow in Vermont’s example."

(May 17, 2019)