U.S. raises legal smoking age to 21 in effort to curb tobacco use

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People under the age of 21 are no longer able to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products in the U.S., per new federal legislation.

The new law also applies to cigars, electronic cigarettes and vaping products that heat a liquid containing nicotine.

The provision raising the legal limit from 18 to 21 nationwide was in a massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 20.

About one-third of states already had their own laws restricting tobacco sales to people 21 and older, including Hawaii, California, New Jersey and Oregon.

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“This is a major step in protecting the next generation of children from becoming addicted to tobacco products,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn recently tweeted.

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In a tweet about the sweeping spending bill, Trump called the new minimum smoking age and other federal changes “big.”

Anti-smoking advocates said the higher age limit should make it more difficult for young people to get tobacco, particularly high school students who had friends or classmates over 18 buying for them.

In Canada, the minimum legal age is set by Health Canada, but provinces and territories can choose to enforce an older age.

Under the Tobacco Act, the minimum age is 18. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon have adopted that age.

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In Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada, the minimum age to buy tobacco products is 19.

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The U.S. age increase comes amid widespread concerns about vaping-related health issues — especially around teens.

As of December, more than 2,500 cases of vaping-related lung injury have been reported in the U.S., and at least 54 people have died, according to the government’s health agency.

The agency says more deaths are under investigation.

The Canadian government says as of December, 14 cases of vaping-associated lung illness have been reported in Canada. These cases include five in Quebec, two in New Brunswick, three in British Columbia and four in Ontario.

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The FDA has regulated tobacco products since 2009. It enforces the law partly through spot checks. Stores can be fined or barred from selling tobacco for repeat violations.

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— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Maham Abedi

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