Sen. Mitch McConnell is pushing to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 and said to expect legislation on this "top priority" for later this month.
The Senate majority leader hails from the state of Kentucky, the nation’s second-largest tobacco producer, and he said that he was prompted to raise the legal age of purchasing tobacco products due to a surge in youth vaping.
"For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children," Sen. McConnell said in a news conference in Louisville, Ky. "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.”
There is currently a bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation that would accomplish this goal. The Tobacco to 21 Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Todd Young, R-Ind., has received the endorsement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids who said that it is an "important part of an overall strategy to reverse the youth e-cig epidemic and further reduce tobacco use."
Schatz is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bill and has called on McConnell to support the "clean piece legislation" that has "no loopholes" and "no exceptions."
"If Leader McConnell is interested in joining our effort, I think the cleanest way for him to do that would be for him to co-sponsor our bill," Schatz said Wednesday during a press conference. "We look forward to seeing what he proposes if he proposes something.”