Supporting 21 as the Legal Age to Purchase Tobacco Products

Kids should not use or have access to tobacco products, including e-vapor products. After decades of decreases in the underage use of tobacco products, use of e-vapor products among kids increased to alarming levels in 2018. This is unacceptable.


Reducing Social Access

Today, the number one way kids under legal age get tobacco products is through social access – the purchase of products by legal age consumers for use by underage persons.​​​

Through social access, kids under the legal age ask or are offered tobacco products by classmates, siblings or friends who are above the current minimum age of 18. And in high school, approximately 80 percent of students in the U.S. turn 18 before they graduate, making them a legal age consumer.

Today, with 18 states and the District of Columbia establishing minimum age laws of 21, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that have raised the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21. And, several bipartisan bills are pending in Congress, which Altria also supports. We hope it becomes the law of the land quickly.

Raising the minimum age to 21 also gives tobacco harm reduction an opportunity to become a reality for millions of adult smokers.

Tobacco harm reduction is built on the idea that adult smokers who do not quit should be able to get nicotine from products that are less risky than combustible cigarettes.

There is a growing public health consensus that products that do not burn and produce no smoke are significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes.  Raising the legal age of purchase to 21 is important for preserving the reduced harm potential of non-combustible technologies. FDA has made clear that this harm reduction future cannot be fully achieved without doing more to reverse underage e-vapor use rates. 

To read more from our Chairman & CEO, see his February 2019 editorial in The Hill.