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McConnell pushing 21 as minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center, will be introducing legislation to try to keep tobacco and vaping products out of the hands of youths. Supporters of the effort, from left to right, include state Sen. Julie Raque Adams, state Rep. Kim Moser, and Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. | Photo by Darla Carter

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would introduce legislation that would make it illegal for people younger than age 21 to buy tobacco and vaping products, such as electronic cigarettes, nationwide.

The Senate Majority Leader announced his intentions during a news conference in eastern Jefferson County, where he expressed concern about the widespread use of electronic cigarettes by America’s youth, including many middle and high school students.

“These young people may not know what chemicals they’re putting into their bodies the moment they inhale, let alone the long-term health risks that could negatively impact them once they reach adulthood,” McConnell said. ” …When teens vape at 15 they could be taking the first steps toward serious health problems throughout their entire lives.”

The tobacco-21 law, which will be introduced in May and include an exemption for “men and women who serve in uniform,” is designed to make it harder for youths — who sometimes get e-cigarettes from 18-year-old classmates — to obtain the products.

McConnell also said that he’s concerned about vaping making it difficult for kids to focus, learn and control impulses; its potential to be a gateway to addiction to other drugs; and the health effects of tobacco in general on the state of Kentucky.

The senator from Kentucky was accompanied by Ben Chandler, president and chief executive of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and other opponents of youth vaping such as state Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and state Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

This post will be updated.

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