Ten U.S. senators are proposing to raise the nationwide smoking age to 21. The bill is unlikely to pass, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Tobacco to 21 Act would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure compliance. All of the bill's sponsors are Democrats, the article notes.
"By raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 across the country, we can cut the number of new smokers each year; build a healthier, tobacco free America; and save lives," bill sponsor Brian Schatz of Hawaii said in a statement.
In June, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law raising the legal smoking age to 21. The law also outlaws the sale, purchase or use of e-cigarettes for anyone under 21. The measure will take effect on January 1, 2016.
The legal age to purchase tobacco is 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah. The minimum age has been raised to 21 in dozens of cities and towns, including New York. Legislators in Washington state and California have also introduced measures to raise the legal smoking age to 21 in recent months.
The Institute of Medicine issued a report earlier this year that concluded if every state were to immediately ban tobacco sales to those under 21, the smoking rate would fall 12 percent. The decrease would prevent 249,000 premature deaths among the generation born between 2000 and 2019, the report noted.
Robin Koval, CEO and President of the anti-smoking prevention organization, Truth Initiative, said in a statement, "A minimum legal age of 21 would mean that those who can legally purchase tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students," reducing induction to smoking among teens between the ages of 15 and 17.