Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) introduced legislation on Monday to raise the national age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The bill has already drawn bipartisan support, with Democratic senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) signing on as a cosponsor. The legislation arrives at a time when lawmakers are looking to counter the rising trend of teenage vaping.
“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children,” McConnell told reporters last month. “By raising the age you could legally purchase to 21, tobacco won’t be in most high schools, presenting fewer opportunities for children to get their hands on vaping devices.”
Although largely aimed as a deterrent against vaping, McConnell’s Tobacco-Free Youth Act has also received support from e-cigarette companies. Many lawmakers have accused vape product sellers, most notably Juul, of deceptively marketing to teenager—Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) singled out the company during a press briefing in 2017.
In a statement to Observer, Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns praised the Senate Majority Leader’s initiative.
“We commend Senator 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 Burns, noting his company’s willingness “to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies.”