December 31, 2019

New Hampshire and the entire country received a timely holiday gift on Friday, December 20. Congress passed, and the President signed, a 1.4 trillion dollar spending package that included a provision to raise the age to legally purchase tobacco and tobacco products from 18 up to 21.

This is a significant public health achievement. We know that the vast majority of smokers start as adolescents and young adults, and studies have shown that raising the age for purchase of tobacco products to 21 will significantly decrease the number of people who ever smoke, which in the long term will decrease the substantial morbidity and mortality related to smoking.

There were already 19 states (not including New Hampshire) that had passed legislation to raise the age of purchase of tobacco products to 21. Here in the Granite State, there is a strong coalition that has been working hard to get this legislation passed, and a number of localities (Dover, Durham, Franklin, Keene, and Newmarket) had already passed ordinances banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. However, federal legislation is obviously preferable as it applies universally across the country, and according to a statement on the FDA website, “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21.”

Another important aspect is that this federal legislation includes e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges, which to this point have gone largely unregulated. As teen vaping has exploded over the past few years, anything that will make it more difficult for our youth to obtain these incredibly addicting products is welcome. 

There is still work to do. There has been a push, both locally and nationally, to ban flavored vaping products, which disproportionately target young people and lead to their rapid addiction, but to date we have not seen this passed either in New Hampshire or at the federal level. The NHMS will continue to work with partners in the state, as well as to work with our congressional delegation at the federal level, to ban flavored vaping products and to help improve both the short and long-term health of our population.

For now, enjoy this rare moment of consensus between our U.S. government executive and legislative branches, and let’s look forward to a healthy and productive 2020 for physicians and patients in New Hampshire.

In health,

John Klunk

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