Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, true to his word, has filed a bill that seeks to raise the nationwide minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.
McConnell introduced the bipartisan bill yesterday along with co-sponsor Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) amid growing concerns about the increased use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products by youths in the country.
“From 2017 to 2018, high school students’ use of what are classified as tobacco products shot up by nearly 40 percent. That’s a staggering figure, especially in a single year,” said McConnell in a press release. “And that increase is driven almost entirely by vaping. The brain is still developing at this young age. When teenagers use tobacco, they’re quite literally altering their brain’s chemistry and making it more susceptible to addiction.”
Both Kentucky and Virginia share a long history of tobacco farming, which is why both Senators felt they should be the ones to take the lead on any proposed legislation that raises the legal smoking age to 21.
When McConnell first announced his intention to file a “tobacco 21 bill,” he teased the idea that military members would be exempt. The bill McConnell filed yesterday, however, was devoid of exemption language, so it would apply to military personnel, too.
Currently 14 states—Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington– have raised the tobacco-sale age to 21 years old. Additionally, some 470 localities have passed laws boosting the age.