June 3, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Mitch McConnell's Tobacco 21 bill is a trap

While Mitch McConnell's bill raising the federal age for selling tobacco products did not include state preemption as I was worried it would, it still contains a very dangeous provision requiring states to raise their legal ages to 21 by amending the Synar Ammendment to raise the age from 18 to 21.

The Synar Amendment, passed in 1992 by Congress, requires states to reduce sales of tobacco to youth under 18 or risk losing some of their Substance Abuse and Mental Health funding from the federal government. Unfortunately, the tobacco companies used Synar to get a lot of bad state laws passed that ended up blocking effective tobacco control measures.  (You can read the details for 33 of the states here.)  The McConnell bill could start that process all over again by creating a rush to pass state legislation raising the age to 21 together with a lot of bad technical details that will actually make it easier for Juul, Philip Morris, and RJ Reynolds to continue preying ok kids by simply overwhelming the health groups in state legislatures.

Also, simply raising the federal age to 21 would mean that all the states would have met Synar anyway.

Tobacco Free Kids and Tobacco 21 seem to be the only organizations that have figured this out.

The rest of the health community needs to unify behind their positions.

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