OKLAHOMA CITY — The executive director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) praised a new federal law that will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 while also calling for more to be done to protect youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.


“This action by Congress is a good first step toward curbing youth access to tobacco and vaping products,” said Julie Bisbee, TSET executive director. “But this is only a first step. State and federal leaders can do more to protect Oklahoma youth through polices like restricting flavored products, passing a comprehensive clean indoor air law and devoting more resources to compliance checks of tobacco retailors.


On December 20, 2019, Congress passed a federal spending package that included a provision prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to people under the age of 21. President Trump signed the measure into law that night. The provision, known as the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, would make it a violation of federal law to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.


Raising the minimum purchasing age is part of Tobacco Stops With Me’s 7-point plan to cut the adult smoking rate in half over the next decade. By increasing the age to purchase tobacco, it cuts off the main pipeline for underage tobacco access from 18- to 20-year old peers. Preventing children and young adults from starting tobacco use is critical as 95% of users start before age 21.


According to a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine, the passage of Tobacco 21 in the U.S. could prevent 223,000 premature deaths, prevent 50,000 deaths from lung cancer and reduce smoking prevalence by an additional 12%. In Oklahoma, 1,800 children and teens become daily smokers each year.