Tobacco-21 Purchase Age Sought by McConnell

Senator cites youth vaping in unveiling plans for legislation to raise minimum age to buy tobacco products.

April 19, 2019

LOUISVILLE, K.Y.—Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) plans to introduce a bill next month to raise the national minimum age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, from 18 to 21, the Senate majority leader announced in a press conference Thursday. McConnell’s support is the  strongest yet in Congress for what’s been dubbed “T21,” CNBC reports.

“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately, it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country,” Sen. McConnell said in prepared remarks.

Twelve states have enacted laws to raise the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21. McConnell said his legislation would be modeled after state T21 laws and include an exemption for members of the armed forces. At least 450 cities and counties have enacted T21 laws, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

McConnell called vaping among teens a serious threat and pointed out that “18 year-olds who are still in high school and can legally buy vaping devices are sharing them with their younger classmates.” Ben Chandler, president/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, added, “Raising the legal age for sales of all tobacco products from 18 to 21 is key to stemming the youth vaping epidemic.”

As reported in NACS Daily, Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s new acting commissioner, said this week that he intends to maintain the agency’s crackdown on youth vaping.