New bill plans to raise minimum age to purchase tobacco — even for military personnel

Elizabeth Howe
May 21, 2019 - 8:49 am

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Despite earlier indications that military personnel would be exempt from any efforts to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco — Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., have hinted otherwise. 

The pair detailed a bipartisan congressional plan for the Tobacco-Free Youth Act on Monday to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 — to include members of the military. 

“When teenagers use tobacco, they are quite literally altering their brain’s chemistry and making it more susceptible to addiction,” McConnell said in a floor speech.  “It is our responsibility as parents and public servants to do everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools and out of youth culture.”

McConnell did admit that a military exemption had been discussed, but that the health implications were significant enough to change his mind. 

“We’ve had plenty of evidence ... that this is a public health problem of significant proportions,” McConnell told Herald-Leader

Of the 13 states that have raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco, Maryland and California are the only two that have exemptions for military personnel. 

“As the father of a Marine and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I feel strongly we should extend the same public health protections to members of the military as we do to their civilian counterparts,” said Senator Kaine.

According to the Washington Post, McConnell’s backing means the bill is likely to get a vote on the floor.

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