Freshman U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., who led the U.S. Health and Human Services Department for eight years in the Clinton administration, turned her attention this week to the rising number of young Americans using tobacco and e-cigarettes, backing a proposal to raise the age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21.
Shalala paired up with U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to bring out the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act.”
The congresswoman’s office offered the rationale for why she was championing the proposal.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018. According to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America,” Shalala’s office noted.
“The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco,” Pallone said on Tuesday. “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal. My legislation also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law. We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”
The bill would make the FDA require “graphic health warnings for cigarette packages" and raises the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21. The bill would also end online sales of tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the March of Dimes and other groups are backing the proposal.