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The McConnel Bill: Making teen vaping a federal crime

About a dozen states have already passed legislation that raises the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, and now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to take the idea nationwide.  Since vape devices and e-liquids are classified as tobacco products per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, teen vaping will soon become a federal crime if the Kentucky lawmaker gets his way.

The move could be somewhat controversial for good ole’ Mitch’s reelection efforts since tobacco has been a cash crop of the Bluegrass State for literally centuries.  However, McConnell’s Tobacco 21 bill is already receiving massive support from anti-tobacco groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  Even Big Tobacco companies like Altria - a major shareholder in the popular vapor company Juul – are jumping on-board the T21 bandwagon, according to CNBC News.

“Tobacco giants Altria, British American Tobacco and e-cigarette maker Juul have all thrown their weight behind raising the minimum buying age. Altria CEO Howard Willard and Juul CEO Kevin Burns have both urged legislation in recent op-eds. Altria started running "T21" ads earlier this month in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers.”

The rave reviews do not stop there.  Kevin Burns himself, the chief executive of Juul Labs, is even singing Mitch’s praises as quoted in the New York Times. 

“We commend Senator McConnell for announcing this legislation as we strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21…21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem — sharing by legal-age peers — and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth usage rates.”

It’s no big secret that the general public is grossly misinformed about the alleged dangers of teen vaping.  Many recent surveys indicate that a growing number of Americans mistakenly believe that vaping is just as deadly as smoking.  A small fraction is of the opinion that vaping is even worse.  And according to Mitch per a radio interview just yesterday, parents in his own home state of Kentucky are also falling for these devious misconceptions. 

“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults.”

Why would Juul, the world’s most profitable vapor company, support legislation that raises the legal smoking and vaping age to 21?  Simple.  It may be a quick and easy way to temporarily pacify politicians on both sides of the aisle amid escalating allegations that teen vaping is a national epidemic.  McConnell is expected to unveil his T21 proposal sometime in May 2019, and it is expected to pass quickly with bipartisan support. 

Related Article:  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracks bill to legalize hemp

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