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Psychology faculty Jonathan Bricker in Fred Hutch News about "Tobacco 21" law

A 'historic victory,' say experts, as US raises age to buy tobacco, vaping products to 21 nationwide

Here's the scientific evidence for why this change will save lives — and what steps might be next


In a long-sought victory for public health activists, the federal government has raised the legal age to purchase tobacco or vaping products throughout the U.S. The new age-of-sale provisions are part of the federal 2020 appropriations agreement, signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, which funds the government through the remainder of the fiscal year.

“Raising the minimum age of tobacco sales from 18 to 21 is a historic victory for the tobacco-control community and for our nation,” said Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center tobacco-cessation researcher Dr. Jonathan Bricker, who has been an advocate for Tobacco 21 (as such minimum age-of-sale laws are known).

The new nationwide Tobacco 21 measure continues momentum that began with localities and states across the U.S. earlier in the decade. More than 500 U.S. jurisdictions, including 19 states have already enacted their own versions, including Fred Hutch’s home state of Washington last April. Bipartisan Tobacco 21 bills were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate in the spring.

“My past research and that of my colleagues have shown there is significant tobacco use uptake and relapse in between ages 18 and 21. This new national law will help reverse that trend, thereby preventing more young people from starting or restarting tobacco use and developing addiction,” Bricker said.

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