Freshman Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, is lending her support to a proposal that would raise the age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21.
Working in tandem with New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, who is the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, both lawmakers introduced the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act.”
Commenting on the matter, Shalala’s office released a statement informing that “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.” In addition, “according to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America.”
In turn, Pallone spoke this week about the legislation, noting that it “makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco.”
Moreover, Pallone asserted that “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal.” In addition, the legislation “also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law.”
Shalala weighed in on the growing concern, expressing that “if a person does not start using tobacco products when they are young, it is less likely they will start as an adult.” So, citing her own time as HHS Secretary and the work she pursued in trying to reduce the number of people that smoked cigarettes, Shalala assured that the new legislation “takes concrete steps to limit access and the appeal of tobacco products to people under 21.”