WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Thirteen states have already raised the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21, and now a bill before Congress could make that the law of the land.
The bill was sponsored by the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“It shouldn’t be 18 any longer. It should be 21,” McConnell told the Senate in introducing his bill. “Youth vaping is a public health crisis.”
His is the second largest tobacco state in the country, and cosponsor Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., represents the third largest tobacco state.
“We have states with a long history of tobacco but we also are states that care about the health of our kids,” Kaine said.
They are the latest duo to unveil a similar plan. Their under-21 tobacco ban would also include vaping, e-cigarettes and other products that deliver nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco.
The U.S. surgeon general says teen vaping is a national epidemic. McConnell says it’s time to step in.
“It’s our jobs as public servants and parents to do everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools,” he said.
Already, some of the largest tobacco brands have come out in support of the bill, as has the American Lung Association, which says it is cautiously optimistic.
“We understand we’re going through a legislative process right now and the Lung Association will continue to advocate for the strongest bill for public health that’s not weakened by the tobacco industry,” spokeswoman Erika Sward said.
Still missing, she said, are regulations banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, which she and other believe target kids. The Food and Drug Administration is considering rules to ban those flavored products, but such a move could take years.