Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A diverse and growing coalition is pushing Congress to raise the federal age limit for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. It's even attracting some industry support, potentially as a way to help avoid a regulatory crackdown on e-cigarettes.

The big picture: Seven states and nearly 450 cities have already raised their smoking age. The change is gaining more steam in Congress partly due to the rise of youth vaping and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb's aggressive response to that trend.

Where it stands: Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt previously proposed raising the age limit from 18 to 21, and there's a bipartisan push to try again.

  • “He will continue to look for bipartisan support for this uniformity as well as tightening age-verification for internet sales," said Brian Rell, Aderholt's chief of staff.
  • Gottlieb has also expressed support for the move.
  • Chatter on the subject is "all over the place," said Rep. Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "It is something we should talk about ... especially in the era of vaping and everything else. And frankly, in the era of legalized marijuana in many states."

Two big industry leaders Juul and Altria — are also on board. (Altria has invested in Juul.)

  • Raising the smoking age "is the most effective action to reverse rising underage e-vapor usage rates," Howard Willard, chairman and CEO of the Altria Group, wrote last month in an op-ed in The Hill.

Proponents' argue that plenty of 18-year-olds are still in high school, so they can buy tobacco products and pass them along to younger peers. But there aren't a lot of 21-year-olds hanging out with 16-year-olds.

The other side: There's plenty of resistance.

  • "I wouldn't do that," said Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Between the lines: Gottlieb's proposed restrictions on vaping products may have helped motivate the industry's engagement — but he's about to step down.

  • Whether Gottlieb's successor carries on with these regulations or not, raising the age may be a way to "get ahead of things," said Rep Tom Cole, a top GOP appropriator.
  • "I think some of the different groups that are involved in vaping and what have you are looking for do something without giving away as much as they thought they might lose," Cole added.

Go deeper: A surge in youth vaping is driving the FDA's crackdown

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

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Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China