Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

Age Limit Now 21 Across US For Cigarettes, Tobacco Products

Cigarettes are displayed on store shelves Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Beverly Hi...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Cigarettes are displayed on store shelves Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Anyone under 21 can no longer legally buy cigarettes, cigars or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

The new law enacted last week by Congress also applies to electronic cigarettes and vaping products that heat a liquid containing nicotine.

The provision raising the legal limit from 18 to 21 nationwide was in a massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president on Dec. 20. About one-third of states already had their own laws restricting tobacco sales to people 21 and older.

"This is a major step in protecting the next generation of children from becoming addicted to tobacco products," new FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn tweeted last week.

Usually, new legislation doesn't take effect right away. The change simply increased the age limit in existing law, so it was able to go into effect immediately, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The agency has regulated tobacco products since 2009. It enforces the law partly through spot checks. Stores can be fined or barred from selling tobacco for repeat violations.

Anti-smoking advocates said the higher age limit should make it more difficult for young people to get tobacco, particularly high school students who had friends or classmates over 18 buy for them.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.