Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will introduce a national Tobacco 21 bill next month. The powerful Republican lawmaker’s backing of legislation that until now has been mostly supported by Democrats probably signals a turning point.
It isn’t yet known if the McConnell bill will have additional components that might make it a reasonable compromise for vaping advocates who oppose Tobacco 21. For example, if it included restrictions on FDA flavor rules, it might be more palatable. But that is probably a moot point, because if the leader of the Republican-controlled Senate supports it, it is likely to pass. McConnell represents Kentucky, a major tobacco state, and is probably working in concert with tobacco companies.
“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children,” McConnell said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” McConnell said. It’s unclear if the law would affect the guidance FDA is currently finalizing that will ban retail sales of flavored vaping products except in adult-only stores.
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