McConnell/Kaine Bill to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 Now Goes to President for Signature

Senate approves bipartisan bill introduced by Senators McConnell and Kaine to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21. Utilizing his role as Senate Majority Leader, McConnell successfully secured their provision in the end of the year funding bills.

WASHINGTON, D.C.The United States Senate approved today the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), to 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. Utilizing his role as Majority Leader and as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator McConnell secured their bipartisan bill in the Fiscal Year 2020 government-funding agreement, which now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

“Kentucky continues to punch above its weight in Washington as I use my position as Majority Leader to advance Kentucky priorities, such as my bipartisan bill with Senator Tim Kaine, to stem the tide of early nicotine addiction among youth in Kentucky and across the nation,” said Majority Leader McConnell. “I’m proud the Senate approved legislation today including our Tobacco-Free Youth Act to help 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 President Trump will be signing the Tobacco-Free Youth Act into law by week’s end.”

“Passage of this lifesaving legislation is an enormous victory for the health of our young people. By raising the age to buy tobacco products nationwide, we can save 223,000 lives and reduce youth tobacco use. I’m grateful for the work of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and all the Virginians who made their voices heard to join us in this critical effort to improve public health. This is one of many steps we should take to tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic that touches every corner of our nation,” said Senator Kaine. 

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.

Background: The Tobacco-Free Youth Act will be effective immediately upon signature of the President and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting swiftly to enforce this law.

Related Issues: Tobacco 21