A new federal law in the U.S. prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, but city and state adoption of the law is at a momentary halt with lengthy discussion and required local legislative moves.
Missouri, along with all other states and territories under U.S. law, will have a three-year grace period to comply with the federal law and form its own statewide legislation that mirrors the national standard.
In local areas and cities the law is not yet enacted, citizens from the ages of 18-20 who have been purchasing tobacco-related products will still be granted the right to do so.
The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control released a statement Dec. 27 stating, “It is now illegal for any retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21.”
President Donald Trump signed the new minimum age into law as a part of a $1.4 trillion spending bill that was required to pass for prevention of another government shutdown. The bill also included items related to increasing U.S. troops wages, southern border wall funding, repealing a tax on health care plans and the official creation of the U.S. Space Force.
A long-time bipartisan push for the tobacco legislation came from a mix of senators from both sides of the aisle, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Mitt Romney leading charge for republicans and Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Tim Kaine of Virginia leading discussions for the democrats.
Trump said in a tweet that the minimum age raise was a key part of the bill he signed in December.
“I will be signing our 738 Billion Dollar Defense Spending Bill today,” Trump said in a tweet Dec. 20. “Raises smoking age to 21! BIG!”
CNN reports the passing of raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products as a major public health achievement for the white house, in accordance to a movement known as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The state of Missouri as a whole has not yet complied with legislation raising the minimum age to 21, but 27 localities in the state have subsequently enacted laws, seeing motivation by the movement. The closest localities to Maryville that have done so are Kansas City, Missouri Lee’s Summit, Missouri and Liberty, Missouri.
As of December, 19 states have individually passed legislation that raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21. These states include: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Washington D.C., and at least 540 localities across the U.S., have raised the minimum age which means these laws now preside over more than half of the U.S. population.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids website offers statistics on tobacco use and information on how the movement began. It lists individual statistics for each state and the influence of tobacco in that state.
The website shows that 9.2% of high school aged students in Missouri smoke and that 10.9% of high school students use e-cigarettes or vape. They also list death toll from smoking related illness, where in Missouri 11,000 adults die each year from their own smoking.
These statistics have been what legislators local and nationally have cited as a way to push prohibition of these products.
Until the state divisions of Alcohol and Tobacco control receive guidance from federal institutions, those departments will continue to enforce the 18 year age restriction set by state laws.
The Missouri DATC will release more information as legislative moves are made by the state to follow national standards.