Today the U.S. Senate has approved a massive 1.4 Trillion spending bill that includes language to raise the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of tobacco products. The vote passed 71-24 in the Senate. Since the bill was previously approved by the House of Representatives, it now goes to US President Donald Trump where he is expected to sign it into law.
The legislation that was included in the spending bill includes language to fund healthcare. The proposed legislation removes the Obamacare Cadillac tax which imposed a 40% tax on generous employer-based health insurance. While the Tobacco 21 provision is intended to “save lives” and curb youth usage of tobacco and e-cigarette products, it’s also viewed by some as a strategic effort to curb healthcare expenses.
Tobacco 21 is a movement that has steamrolled in 2019 at local and state levels. This year thirteen states passed legislation prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 bringing the total to 19. Late last year, Altria announced it supported legislation to raise the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The move was made in anticipation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a ban on flavored tobacco, which happened in 2019.
Ironically, President Trump had been heralded as being someone who would be friendly to the premium cigar industry. No matter how big or small, once this becomes law, the entire population from age 18 to 20 will no longer be able to purchase tobacco products.
The idea of big tobacco supporting Tobacco 21 combined with the fact the premium cigar industry holding firm on its position that it does not market to youth has pretty much led to a non-response to fighting Tobacco 21 by the trade associations and manufacturers. On top of that, there have not been any grassroots efforts to challenge such legislation at local and state levels.
One interesting note was Senator Ted Cruz [R-Texas] speaking out against Tobacco 21 just prior to the vote while smoking a cigar. This might be one of the few times a member of Congress has spoken out against Tobacco 21.
Some will argue it is a small loss for the premium cigar industry, but the bottom line is that the premium cigar industry will lose a set of customers ages 18 to 20.
Photo Credits: U.S. Capitol Facebook Page