A new bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives would set 21 as the minimum age to purchase tobacco — and vapes — nationally. The bill would also add restrictions for online purchases of vaping products.
The bill, introduced by Alabama Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt, is called the Stopping Consumption of Tobacco by Teens Act. The name, SCOTT Act, is a tribute to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, known for his amplification of the moral panic over teenage vaping. Gottlieb left office last week, and has been replaced by Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless.
“This is bipartisan legislation that builds upon the work that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, (whom the bill is named in honor of) has done towards stemming the tide of youth adoption of vaping products over the past few years,” said Rep. Aderholt in a statement. “The fight to curb this epidemic will not end with his departure, as proven by this first step in taking tobacco out of the ready reach of underage children.”
The Aderholt bill, known as HR 2084, is co-sponsored by California Democrat Juan Vargas, proving again that tying vaping to tobacco and restricting access for adults is popular across both parties. A bipartisan Senate bill to ban flavored vaping products (except tobacco) was introduced last month.
In addition to banning sales of all tobacco and vaping products to people under 21, the SCOTT Act requires online sellers of vaping products to verify a buyer’s personal information through a third-party database (which most online vape retailers already do). It also requires a signature on delivery by an adult 21 or older. Many vapers will avoid purchasing online because of the hassle created by being home for mail deliveries.
Aderholt’s bill will presumably be supported by JUUL Labs and its minority stakeholder Altria Group (which makes Marlboro cigarettes), which both support Tobacco 21 legislation. Laws that ban sales to those under 21 have been introduced in more than 20 states this year, and have passed so far in Illinois, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Currently 10 states have Tobacco 21 laws in place.
Supporters of Tobacco 21 believe the laws will prevent 18-year-old high school students from buying and distributing tobacco and vaping products to underage classmates, although similar legislation to make alcohol sales illegal to under-21’s has not eliminated youth drinking.
In other Congressional news, 11 Democratic senators have sent a letter to JUUL Labs demanding answers to questions on a variety of topics. The letter, like its many predecessors, is designed not to get important information to inform legislative work, but to harass JUUL and serve as a platform for the grandstanding politicians to score political points.
The signatories include Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, and presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. There is no explanation for the absence of reliable anti-vaping Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Minority Leader.
The senators focus heavily on Altria’s purchase of 35 percent of JUUL Labs, and imply that because Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris) has a history of deceit and marketing cigarettes to youth that JUUL must also be lying and aiming their product at minors. Aside from giving the senators a chance to connect vaping to smoking in the public mind — and forcing JUUL to spend many hours formulating a reply — the letter has no real purpose.