A Deeper Look Into The Tobacco 21 Bill

Don’t you think its weird that tobacco companies are now supporting a bill which will raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21? Health advocacy groups have been trying to increase the age to legally buy tobacco and e-cigarettes for years and the tobacco giants have always opposed this until recently.

Altria Group, one of the worlds largest  producers of tobacco and e-cigarettes, was the top contributor to federal candidates and political committees. It contributed $2,320,959 in 2017-2018 alone. Along with other tobacco and e-cigarette industry giants, Reynolds American and Juul Labs, Altria is pushing the Tobacco 21 bill which increases the legal age to purchase these products to 21.

Why now?

Is it a bad guy playing good guy type of scenario? 

Tobacco companies are masters at supporting bills that look good on the surface but often include provisions that are harmful to public health. Supporting the Tobacco 21 bill is more of a public relations strategy to improve their public images instead of improving public health. For example, in the article, “Why Big Tobacco and JUUL are lobbying to raise the smoking age, “ it states, “Some of the Tobacco 21 laws backed by smoking and vaping companies leave in place weak enforcement measures, add exemptions for groups such as military members or block localities from adopting stricter rules”. In addition, Juul and Altria threw their support behind an alternative tobacco 21 bill that would raise the tobacco age to 21 but would invalidate some stricter local laws on smoking and vaping. These laws include bans on tobacco advertisements near schools or on park benches. This article also states, “Tory Roberg, an Arizona lobbyist for both the Washington-based Vapor Technology Association and the Arizona Smoke Free Business Alliance, said she helped write the tobacco-supported bill along with the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance and the Arizona Petroleum Marketers Association. She said tobacco companies weren’t involved, though a report from health advocates in 2012 detailed how grocery and convenience stores have allied with Big Tobacco on legislation nationwide.” This shows how Tobacco companies can influence other industries by becoming their allies and together supporting a bill that will actually worsen public health and place the youth of today in danger.

The Tobacco 21 bill is also flawed due to the fact that it contains provisions that could benefit tobacco giants by adding provisions that define e-cigarettes as a “vapor product” instead of a “tobacco product”. This provision would allow e-cigarettes to escape the stronger regulations that tobacco products face. This means we would continue to have a dangerous unregulated product that teens and adolescents are inhaling into their growing bodies.

I ask myself, what did I learn from looking into this bill?  I learned to read between the lines, look deeper into the meaning of sentences, read the fine print, and to not judge a book by its cover. The Tobacco 21 bill looks good on the outside, however, the fine print states otherwise. It will hurt us rather than help us. Vaping-Attention To Prevention fully supports raising the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21, however, we do not support the remaining part of the bill that allows for less regulations on these harmful products.  I propose we change the name of the Tobacco 21 bill to The Trojan Horse Bill.