McConnell Secures Tobacco-Free Youth Act in Fiscal Year 2020 Agreement; McConnell/Kaine Measure Raises Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

Senator McConnell joined Senator Kaine in introducing a bipartisan bill to raise tobacco purchase age to 21. Utilizing his role as Senate Majority Leader, Senator McConnell successfully secured the provision in the end of the year funding bills.

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today that he successfully secured the Tobacco-Free Youth Act in the Fiscal Year 2020 government agreement. The legislation, which he introduced earlier this year with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), would raise the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, from 18 to 21 and help protect young people from the dangers of nicotine. Before the end of the year, both the House of Representatives and Senate are expected to approve the government-funding bills, sending them to President Trump for his signature.

As senators from two states with a long history of tobacco production and consumption, Senators McConnell and Kaine have seen the negative effects of youth tobacco use and have heard compelling public health stories from concerned constituents throughout their states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, over 6 million U.S. middle and high school students were current users of tobacco products with 1 in 3 high school students and 1 in 8 middle school students reporting using some type of tobacco product in the past 30 days. In response, the two Senators introduced the Tobacco-Free Youth Act to help stem the tide of these alarming trends by making it unlawful for retailers to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21. A report from the Institute of Medicine found that most adult smokers start smoking before age 21 and that increasing the tobacco age to 21 could save lives, improve public health, and reduce tobacco initiation among youth. Young tobacco users may not know what chemicals they are putting into their bodies, let alone the long-term health risks that could negatively impact them as adults.

“Since I introduced my legislation earlier this year to raise the minimum nationwide purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, stories of vaping related illnesses and deaths -- especially among young people -- have stunned Kentucky and the nation,” said Senator McConnell. “I’m grateful to the communities, the health advocates and my fellow elected officials, including President Trump and Senators Todd Young and Mitt Romney, who have joined Senator Kaine and me to address this urgent crisis and keep these dangerous products away from our children. It is because of my position as a tobacco state Senator that I introduced this bill, and it is because of my role as Senate Majority Leader that it will become law. Together, we can help Kentucky’s young people grow up healthy and with every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

“I’m thrilled that our bill to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 will get a vote in the House and Senate this week. This legislation will have an enormous positive impact on public health in America, and it’s needed now more than ever as we grapple with the youth e-cigarette epidemic. It’s estimated that raising the tobacco age to 21 would reduce the number of premature deaths by 223,000 and significantly reduce lung cancer deaths and other health problems. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their work on this critical effort – including Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Senators Murray, Alexander, Schatz, Young, Durbin, and Romney. I hope we can get this lifesaving bill across the finish line without delay,” said Senator Kaine.

Related Issues: Tobacco 21