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Age to smoke tobacco could be raised to 21

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to raise the age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years old.

Posted: Apr 19, 2019 5:08 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2019 7:36 PM

There's a push to raise the national tobacco age to 21.

Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says he'll introduce a bill next month. It comes at a time when many communities across the country have already made the change.

WAAY 31 found out just how effective those "Tobacco 21" laws have been.

There isn't a lot of research to say if those laws actually work in keeping teens from smoking, and opinions are varied at vape and tobacco shops in Huntsville.

"They can fight in the military at age 18, they can go fight in a war, but can't smoke a cigar," said Chuck Facemire, who works at the Humidor Pipe Shop.

He said any measure at the federal level to raise the tobacco purchase age should not include all tobacco products.

"This is a natural product that is not inhaled, it's not like cigarettes. Piped tobacco and cigars are not like cigarettes," said Facemire.

Senator Mitch McConnell said he felt compelled to do something after a recent survey found a drastic increase in the number of teens who vape.

Right now, 11 states have "Tobacco 21" laws. More states are moving in that direction.

While there's little, if any, research to show if those laws work, Sierra Kirkwood believes they will.

"A lot of children are getting their hands on things that they need to get on," said Kirkwood, who works at the Elk River Vape Shop.

She says any change to the law won't impact the vape shop where she works.

"Honestly, our range of age is actually an older crowd. We don't tend to see a lot of younger people nowadays," said Kirkwood.

Facemire fears what comes next, if lawmakers raise the purchase age.

"I think it's over bureaucracy. Are we going to raise the age to the military service to 21? The voting age to 21?" said Facemire.

Most anti-tobacco groups won't comment on McConnell's plan until they see an actual bill.

We should note, the group "Tobacco Free Kids" says 95% of adult smokers say they started before the age of 21.

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