Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he will be sponsoring federal legislation to raise the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 years old.
At a press conference held at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Leader McConnell was joined by Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler, State Senator Julie Raque Adams and State Representative Kim Moser.
Leader McConnell stated he decided to sponsor this legislation at a federal level as twelve other states have passed similar legislation noting the “vaping” epidemic is on the rise, citing 45% of high school students have admitted to vaping. He noted youth do not understand the repercussions of using nicotine and tobacco products and that two-thirds of high school seniors polled did not know vaping products contained nicotine. He stated 95% of adult smokers started before the age of 21 and this is an important step in prevention. Noting improving the health of our youth should be a bipartisan issue, Leader McConnell said he hopes this bill will pass quickly.
Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler thanked Leader McConnell for his leadership on this issue and recognized the Kentucky Chamber as an important partner in leading the effort to curb Kentucky’s tobacco use. Chandler said this law will “without question make it harder for youth to access tobacco.”
State Senator Julie Raque Adams emphasized her passion for this issue as she is a mom with high school children and has seen firsthand that many youth think vaping is a harmless habit. She thanked Leader McConnell for sending a very clear message that this will improve the health of our young people.
State Representative Kim Moser, who was the sponsor of the state tobacco-free school bill recently passed into law, stated this bill is key to curbing the epidemic and noted the importance of prevention. She also noted the cost that smoking and vaping has on Kentucky stating last year Kentucky spent $2 billion on tobacco-related illness and of that, $600 million was Medicaid dollars.
When asked about the tobacco culture in Kentucky, McConnell discussed the decline in the number of tobacco farmers in Kentucky and explained that today there is no question or debate that tobacco is bad for health and this bill will greatly reduce youth use.
Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts commended McConnell’s efforts and the proposed legislation. “On behalf of the Kentucky business community, we want to thank Leader McConnell for his bold leadership today in announcing his introduction of a bill that will raise the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21. With Kentucky leading the nation in smoking-related deaths, we know prevention is key to improving the health of our citizens and workforce.”