Nancye Daniel believes a new "Tobacco 21" law is a good move to help keep the addictive substance from teens. But it's not enough.
Last week, Congress moved to pass the biggest new sales restrictions on tobacco in more than a decade. The legislation raises the minimum age to purchase all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21 nationwide, a step long-sought by health advocates. President Trump signed the measure into law as part of a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown.
"Yes, I do think this is a step in the right direction," said Daniel, coordinator for Champions for a Drug-Free Lyon County. ""I also support taxing e-cigarettes at the same rate as other tobacco products. We know a price increase will curtail use and reduce access to youth."
The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes is clear: most underage teens who use tobacco get it from older friends. An estimated 90 percent of smokers start before age 18.
Delaying access to cigarettes is expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.
Daniel would also like to see more local smoke-free environments.
"We, as a community, could reduce the social norm of tobacco use as well as reduce exposure to secondhand smoke by making our parks, businesses and public places smoke-free," she said.
The bipartisan tobacco legislation, supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has been attached to a package of must-pass spending bills that will keep the government running into next year.
(The Herald Ledger contributed to this story.)