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New federal bill would raise minimum age to buy tobacco, vape products to 21

Posted at 3:38 PM, May 21, 2019

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) introduced a new bill Monday that would require anyone buying tobacco products — including e-cigarettes or vaping products — be 21 years old.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), would follow in the footsteps of 14 other states that have already raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.

"Youth vaping is a public health crisis," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "It's our responsibility as parents and public servants to do everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools."

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the number of high school students who said they currently used tobacco products increased by about 38 percent. According to the CDC, the increase is tied to e-cigarettes.

The number of high school students in the survey who said they had vaped in the last 30 days surged by almost 78 percent between 2017 and 2018.

But Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinios chamber of commerce, says the bill is "unnecessary" and will impact local retailers the most.

"Our sense is that you're really not going to diminish teen smoking that much. They're going to find it elsewhere. and you've just pushed those sales into the shadows," he said.

Some advocates of the change are optimistic that the bill will become law, but are concerned about how the new laws will be enforced by the FDA.

"(The FDA) spends a lot of money doing enforcement checks. They did 140,000 last year. But how many real retailers did they suspend? Twenty-seven across the entire country. That doesn't work," said Dr. Rob Crane, president of Tobacco 21 — a campaign pushing for raise the minimum age to by tobacco products. That doesn't work.

Some major tobacco and vape companies also support the measure. According to the Washington Post , the parent company of Juul, one of the largest vaping companies in the country, supports the legislation.