McConnell unveils bill to raise national smoking age to 21

Published: May. 20, 2019 at 10:44 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON D.C. (WFIE) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation to broadly raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 on Monday.

The bipartisan bill, Tobacco-Free Youth Act, includes those in the military and all tobacco and nicotine products like e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

McConnell’s bill is now joined by Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, who has sponsored legislation to raise the age in the past.

Several other senators have introduced similar legislation recently, including Indiana Senator Todd Young’s bipartisan bill Tobacco to 21.

Twelve states, including California, Illinois and Washington, have raised the tobacco age to 21, as have more than 100 localities, including New York City and Chicago.

Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the nation, and McConnell said he believes it’s because the state has had a ”loyalty” to tobacco. The cash crop was grown in 119 of Kentucky’s 120 counties when he first ran in 1984 for the Senate, McConnell said.

McConnell noted the epidemic has worsened in recent years as vaping has gained popularity among high-school and even middle school students. The e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, he said. One study showed that 45 percent of high school students in the state have tried vaping.

McConnell said he doesn’t expect raising the national age to “solve every problem, but it will sure make it harder for an 18-year-olds to pass these products along to middle schoolers.”

It is yet to be determined when the Kentucky Senator’s bill will get a vote. Those in Frankfort, Kentucky reported they do not expect a vote to come this week.

We will update this story with any new developments.