Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to Introduce Legislation Raising Minimum Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 Nationwide

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Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to Introduce Legislation Raising Minimum Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 Nationwide

Tobacco 21 sign

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Efforts to bring Tobacco 21 to the federal level is about to get a big boost.

In May, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will introduce legislation to raise the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The bill will cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices.

"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," McConnell said. 

"My legislation will be similar to the current system, where retailers have the responsibility to verify the age of anyone buying tobacco products — we'll just raise the age from 18 to 21. Twelve states have enacted laws to raise the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21. These bills will serve as helpful guidance as I craft my federal legislation," he said, adding that his proposal will exempt military members similar to state measures.

McConnell's announcement came during a press conference with Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; Kentucky State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-36th District); and Kentucky State Rep. Kim Moser (R-64th District). 

The news drew the support of tobacco industry stakeholders like Altria Group Inc. and Juul Labs Inc.

"Altria strongly supports raising the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products, including e-vapor, to 21," said Howard Willard, chairman and CEO of Altria. "This is the most effective action to reverse rising underage e-vapor usage rates. Now is the time to move to 21 and we welcome Sen. McConnell's leadership on this important issue."

In late October, the Richmond, Va.-based tobacco leader voiced its support for federal legislation that would increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21, adding it thinks it makes sense to increase the legal age through a phased-in approach, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

In March, San Francisco-based Juul also lent its support to Tobacco 21 efforts, launching ads in favor of measures in several states. IIt echoed that support following McConnell's announcement on Thursday, April 18.

"We commend Sen. McConnell for announcing this legislation as we strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and have been actively supporting legislation to do this at the federal level and in states across the country," said Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns.

"Juul Labs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world and to accomplish that goal, we must restrict youth usage of vapor products. Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem — sharing by legal-age peers — and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth usage rates. That is why we will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies," he added.