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DOD implements tobacco sales to 21 years old

Stars and Stripes

Service members under 21 will not be allowed to buy tobacco products on base beginning in August, when a new Pentagon-wide policy goes into effect.

The rule affects the sale of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco and vaping supplies, such as e-cigarettes and e-liquids, the Army said in a statement released this week.

It takes effect Aug. 1 at all installations and facilities in the U.S., its territories and possessions and on Navy ships in U.S. ports, the statement said. Retailers are required to post signs alerting customers to the change by July 1, it stated.

The Department of Defense is raising the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years of age beginning Aug. 1, 2020.

The ban includes cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco and vaping supplies, such as e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

The new policy implements legislation passed in December, which raised the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products in the U.S. by three years from 18, providing no military exemption.

That law took effect immediately but gave government officials about nine months to develop rules for its enforcement.

“Research has shown that raising the legal age of sale to 21 would likely reduce youth tobacco initiation and use,” said Corey Fitzgerald, a public health social worker with the Army Public Health Center. “Nearly all smokers start as young children or young adults.”

Those under the age of 25 make up the largest group of the roughly 23% of active duty soldiers who reported using tobacco, the center said in its 2018 Health of the Force report.

The center’s goal is to bring tobacco use throughout the service to zero by 2025, Fitzgerald said in the Army statement.