As the nation's leading tobacco companies, we have an important role in reducing underage tobacco use. For more than two decades, Altria's tobacco companies have made significant investments to prevent kids from using tobacco. These efforts include:
- supporting programs and organizations that positively influence kids and their decision not to engage in risky behaviors like tobacco use;
- supporting trade programs, retailer training and legislative efforts that help prevent underage access to tobacco products; and
- taking steps designed to limit reach of their brands and marketing materials to unintended audiences.
Today, underage use of conventional tobacco products is at the lowest levels in a generation. Retailers are more effective at keeping tobacco products out of kids' hands. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation covers nearly every aspect of how tobacco products are manufactured, marketed and sold.
Despite these gains, our industry faces a new challenge – an alarming and significant rise in youth use of e-vapor. The FDA and Surgeon General have called the increase an epidemic and said more must be done. We agree. The rise of youth vaping is a serious issue that immediately needs to be addressed. We support the FDA's commitment to leverage its authority and resources to take additional steps to address these new, emerging issues associated with underage use, while continuing the progress that's been made on traditional products.
Altria is committed to being part of the solution. In addition to our long-standing efforts, we're advocating for legislation to raise the minimum age for all tobacco products to 21. We believe this is the most effective step available to reverse rising underage e-vapor rates. Data shows that youth under 18 get tobacco products – including e-vapor – primarily through social sources, like friends or siblings who are 18 or older. Approximately 80 percent of high school students in the U.S. turn 18 years old before they graduate. By raising the minimum age to 21, no high school student should be able to purchase tobacco products legally.