The minimum age to purchase tobacco in Arkansas, Texas, and Vermont increased from 18 to 21 on Sunday. Those three states are among 13 to increase their tobacco age restriction to 21 since June 2015, when Hawaii became the first state to do so in the 21st century.
There are now 13 states where the minimum age to purchase or use tobacco is 21, representing 39.1% of the U.S. population. Three states have a tobacco age limit of 19 and the remaining 34 have a tobacco age limit of 18.
In five states (one with a minimum age of 19 and four with a minimum age of 18), a tobacco age limit was been signed into law but has not yet taken effect. Connecticut and Maryland have the next scheduled tobacco age increases. In both states, the minimum tobacco age will increase from 18 to 21 on October 1.
The tobacco age increases in Arkansas, Texas, and Vermont were all signed into law by a Republican governor. Since June 2015, nine Democratic governors and eight Republican governors have signed increases in their states’ tobacco ages into law.
The tobacco age increases in Arkansas and Texas were passed by a majority-Republican state legislature, meaning that they were enacted under a Republican state government trifecta. Vermont’s increase was passed by a majority-Democratic state legislature, meaning that it took place under divided government. Eight states have increased their tobacco age under a Democratic trifecta, four under a Republican trifecta, and six under divided government.
The first tobacco age limit in U.S. history was imposed in 1883 in New Jersey and set a minimum age of 16. By 1920, 14 states had a minimum tobacco age of 21. However, over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, many states with age restrictions over 21 lowered their tobacco age limit, often to 18. In 2000, the minimum age to purchase tobacco was 19 in three states (Alabama, Alaska, and Utah) and 18 the remaining 47 states.