Legal age to buy tobacco could raise to 21 nationwide

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-In the United States, it could soon be illegal for people under 21 to buy tobacco. Thursday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to introduce federal legislation that will raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21.

“For some time, I’ve been hearing from parents of children who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among teens. It’s reaching epidemic levels around the country,” said McConnell.

The senator spoke in Kentucky on Thursday about reducing underage smoking. In Kentucky, research shows that more than 40% of high school students have tried vaping.

“Research shows that the human brain continues to develop to the age of 25. So, anytime that you can refrain from introducing a stimulant or any other substance, you reduce the possibility that you might change the brain structure as it’s developing,” said Eric Gregory, executive director at Drug Free Warren County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018 said that the number of high school students using tobacco products has increased by 38 percent.

“Beyond just the physical part, you’re also reducing the possibility that our younger people might learn to be addicted by introducing the substance into the brain,” said Gregory.

The owner at Remedy Vapor in Bowling Green said if the new legislation passes, it will be bad for business.

“About 15 percent of vape store shoppers are between the ages of 18 and 21. What that amounts to as far as revenue for the state is over $1 million in tax revenue that would disappear,” said Sam Freeman, owner at Remedy Vapor.

The CDC has blamed the increase in high school students using tobacco on e-cigarettes.

“You have to be 18 to serve in the military, but now they’re making it 21 in order to vape. That seems kind of not fair to somebody of that age,” said Freeman.

McConnell plans to introduce the new bill in May. Eighteen states currently have 21 as the legal age to buy tobacco.