McConnell introduces bill to raise minimum U.S. smoking age

The Senate's top Republican is introducing legislation to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.
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WASHINGTON (AP/WSAZ) -- The Senate's top Republican is introducing legislation to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.

The measure by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would cover not only tobacco products, but also e-cigarettes and vapor products.

McConnell represents Kentucky, which long was one of the nation's leading tobacco producers. But tobacco production has fallen in the state in recent year.

Kentucky has had among the highest cancer rates in the country. McConnell says the use of e-cigarettes and vaping has become "a completely new health epidemic" in his state, with growing use of those products by teenagers.

He says vaping is "a public health crisis." McConnell says it's up to parents and public officials to keep these products "out of high schools and out of youth culture."

McConnell introduced the legislation alongside Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

"This should be an area where we all lock arms to get results," McConnell stated in a press release. "I’m proud this body will have a chance to take action and stem the tide of addiction among our nation’s youth. I am proud to be standing with Senator Kaine. I hope each one of our colleagues will recognize the opportunity before us, avoid making this important issue any kind of partisan football, and join in supporting the Tobacco-Free Youth Act.”