Earlier this week on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, introduced legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for tobacco from 18 to 21. It’s a bipartisan effort being spearheaded by McConnell and Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s former running mate.
McConnell first announced his intention to introduce the legislation in April and had, at the time, promised exemptions for active military and veterans. But the Tobacco Free Youth Act he introduced this week includes no such exemptions. Nor does it prevent states from passing more stringent laws — a move that has assuaged critics who saw the bill as “too industry-friendly.” That means bills like the Hawaii state legislature’s attempt to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 100 wouldn’t be out of the question under McConnell’s law.
The bill would go into effect “no later than 180 days after the date of enactment” or, in other words, no more than six months after being passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.
In his announcement on the floor, McConnell introduced the legislation and repeated its goal: “A new age, nationwide, for purchasing anything classified as a tobacco product. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapor products, and everything else. It shouldn’t be 18 any longer. It should be 21.”