Senators launch bipartisan “Tobacco to 21” campaign

Updated: May. 8, 2019 at 10:14 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, IN & WASHINGTON D.C. (WFIE) - There’s a new fight to keep teens away from smoking and vaping.

U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and others announced a bipartisan campaign to raise the national minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products.

Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL.), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) held a news conference at the nation’s capitol Wednesday with anti-tobacco and public health advocates.

“We are here because we want to save lives," Senator Schatz said in his opening statement. “Our bill is clean, simple, free of loop holes, and it is bipartisan.”

It’s a push to lower health care costs and prevent the leading cause of death and disease in the U.S.

“More than one in five Hoosiers uses a tobacco product," Senator Young said. "Nationally, 95% of Americans began using tobacco before age 21. Think about that.”

Senators announced the time to act is now. The popularity in e-cigarettes and vaping products is driving statistics up, Senator Young explained. The Center for Disease Control reports between 2017 and 2018 the number of middle and high school students who started vaping increased by 36-percent."

Those against the bill argue it would hurt businesses and spark an even bigger black market.

“The most impactful act that we can take here at the federal level to bring down healthcare costs is to pass this bill," Senator Young said.

The vaping product JUUL’s Chief of Executive Officer Kevin Burns sent 14 NEWS this statement:

“We commend these bipartisan lawmakers for introducing this Tobacco 21 legislation, as we strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and have been actively supporting legislation to do this at the federal level and in states across the country. JUULLabs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world. To accomplish that goal, we must restrict youth usage of vapor products. Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem – sharing by legal-age peers – and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth usage rates. That is why we will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies.”

As of May 1, 2019, 12 states – Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, Washington, and Virginia– have raised the tobacco sale age to 21, along with at least 450 localities, including New York City, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Kansas Cities, and Washington, DC. Some of the localities are in states that subsequently enacted statewide laws. The strength of state and local laws, such as their enforcement and penalties, varies substantially.

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