Raising smoking age to 21 raises debate in Washington

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Raising the smoking age from 18 to 21; It’s a hot topic at the Conecticut State Capitol. 12 states have already done it and there’s a new push in Washington to tackle teen use of tobacco especially e-cigarettes nationwide.

On Friday, top Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s drafting a plan to ban all tobacco products including e-cigarettes from those under 21.

It’s still too early to tell, but supporters of the ban said they’re skeptical of Senator McConnell. He represents Kentucky the 2nd largest tobacco producing state in the country.

Sen. Mitch McConnell said, the ban “will cover all tobacco products including vaping devices.”

The U.S. Surgeon General calls the problem an epidemic, and the CDC said one in five high school students reported vaping last year.

Related: Lamont; hike “sin taxes,” raise smoke/vape age

Mike Hogan from the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said, “If that helps get vapor products and tobacco products out of high schools we’re all for it.”

Hogan said he’s optimistic about McConnell’s plan but hopes it doesn’t go too far. 

Right now, Democrats are pushing plans that would also ban flavored tobacco, something even the FDA has cautioned may hurt adults trying to ween of traditional toxic cigarettes.

Hogan said, “they’ve sort of lumped them together and applied the anti-smoking montra to e-cigarettes and I think that’s a critical mistake.”

At least a dozen states have already passed some version of a Tobacco 21 law. McConnell has yet to release specifics about his plan, but says it will include an exemption for those in the military.

Paul Billings with the American Lung Association says he fears McConnell’s bill will include loopholes and protections for tobacco companies until details are out he’s encouraging lawmakers to sign on to other Democrat backed plans in the senate.

McConnell says he’ll introduce his plan in may and expects bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

McConnell already has the support of the largest tobacco company in the country who within minutes of his announcement announce they fully support his plan.

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