Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
We applaud U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for securing the Tobacco-Free Youth Act in the federal Fiscal Year 2020 Agreement to raise the minimum legal sale age of tobacco products across the country, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. This bipartisan legislation, known as Tobacco 21 and sponsored by Leader McConnell and Senator Tim Kaine, would have a profound impact on kids’ health by protecting young people from the dangers of nicotine.
Since 2016 there has been a surge in e-cigarette use among Kentucky kids — some first trying vaping as young as 6th grade. And these harmful products are packed with nicotine, often with enough to equate to up to two packs of cigarettes in one device. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to its effect as it can cause lasting damage to brain development, among other negative health outcomes. Youth often rely on friends or relatives close in age to get tobacco products and, by raising the sale age of tobacco products to 21, the likelihood of access through their peers decreases.
Before the end of the year, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are expected to approve the funding agreement and the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, sending it to President Trump for his signature. Kentucky must change its state law to comply with the new federal law when it passes. We commend Senator Ralph Alvarado for prefiling a Tobacco 21 bill to be considered in the 2020 General Assembly.
Kentucky Youth Advocates thanks Leader McConnell for leading the way in Congress on this critical issue to help keep Kentucky kids—and kids across the nation—healthier and prevent life-long addiction to nicotine.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.