It has been a busy week in Congress as members of the House and Senate cast their last votes of the year. Outside of the impeachment debacle, we saw the House pass the U.S. – Mexico – Canada trade agreement, and the Senate confirmed 13 judicial appointments. Both the House and Senate passed an end-of-year spending package. This spending package not only includes the standard funding for federal agencies, it included a host of other policies. The one that might be the most surprising is legislation to raise the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. This policy, known as Tobacco 21, was seen as a huge victory for addressing the teen vaping epidemic, but unfortunately, not everyone was as thrilled about its passage as you would assume they’d be.
Surprisingly, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers told The Washington Post, “If age restrictions were a solution we wouldn’t be having this problem.” This is after years of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids championing this legislation whenever it passed on the state level.
When Maryland passed Tobacco 21, the organization released a statement praising the bill, saying “Maryland can prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.”
We saw the same story in Washington State; they passed Tobacco 21 legislation earlier this year, and it is set to go into effect January 2020. Myers praised this action, releasing a statement indicating that “this bill will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and further drive down tobacco use.”
Myers group even endorsed Democrat Gretchn Whitmer in Michigan because of her support of similar legislation: “Thanks to the strong leadership of Gretchen Whitmer, residents of Michigan will have a governor who is committed to fighting tobacco use – the No. 1 cause of preventable death – and supports strong tobacco prevention efforts like raising the tobacco age to 21.”
On the federal level, when Democrats introduced legislation to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, Myers said “The Tobacco to 21 Act will help reduce tobacco use among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.”
So, when Democrats introduce and support Tobacco 21 legislation, they receive effusive praise from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids and their President Matthew Myers, but when the bill is championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and will be signed into law by President Trump, they suddenly take a very different position.
Myers was right in his previous statements, Tobacco 21 will help address the teen vaping epidemic, limiting the social access to these products that have exacerbating teen use. Tobacco 21 will save lives by driving down tobacco use. And this policy is supported by 73% of the American people.
One has to wonder why an organization that is dedicated to making the next generation tobacco-free isn’t effusively praising what might be the single most effective policy to make that vision a reality. Are they, like so many left-leaning organizations, so desperate to paint Republicans, and President Trump, in a bad light that they will reverse course on what was once one of their key policy priorities?
Jesse Grady has worked with the RNC, Trump Campaign, Texas GOP, and the NC GOP. He now lives in Baltimore and studies law at the University of Maryland.