Tobacco 21: Lighting up under the age of 21 now illegal

The FDA is expediting the implementation of legislation, signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, that raises the federal minimum age for use, or purchase, of tobacco products, from 18 to 21. The legislation includes vaping products as well as traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars.

Smokers – including those who use vaping products – may notice the rollout of a new nationwide policy this week, as stores across Stephens County, Georgia, and across the country begin to fall in line – months early - with new federal regulations that raise the nationwide legal age for smoking to 21.


The shift in policy comes as a result of one of the two spending packages signed by President Trump on Dec. 20 – an action that narrowly averted a midnight government shutdown as the latest in a series of stopgap funding bills was set to expire. Attached to the funding legislation were a multitude of changes to a wide range of long-standing policies and regulations, including the federal minimum age at which an individual can legally smoke tobacco products.

Note: On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available.

Legally, the Federal Drug Administration has 180 days from the presidential signing of the legislation to make changes in related policies, and the legal change in the minimum age would take effect “within 90 days” after that six month period - leaving smokers - and retailers - anticipating the new law to go in effect sometime in the late summer.


However, the FDA website was updated Dec. 20, and now states “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21.”


While the District of Columbia and 19 states had already passed state-level legislation raising the minimum age for smoking to 21, Georgia law specifies that it is “unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to purchase, attempt to purchase, or possess tobacco or tobacco products.”

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