In a notable break with the history of their home states, the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate from Kentucky and a top Democrat from Virginia officially introduced a bill on Monday which would increase the minimum age to buy cigarettes and any other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years.
"Now is the time to do it," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor, as he rattled off negative statistics about cancer related to tobacco use in the Bluegrass State.
"Our state once grew tobacco like none other, and now we're being hit by the health consequences of tobacco use like none other," McConnell said, noting the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping to those under the age of 18.
"The health of our children is literally at stake," McConnell added.
McConnell offered the bill along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Vice Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2016, who also hails from a state with historic ties to the tobacco industry.
"Like Sen. McConnell, I come from a tobacco state," Kaine said in remarks on the Senate floor, joining the Majority Leader in giving a history lesson about his state, and the influence of tobacco.
"We're backsliding," Kaine said, nothing the recent increase in youth tobacco use, as he joined in blaming e-cigarettes and vaping.
"We encourage the states to pass their own laws," Kaine added, as he said the new age limit would also be applied to members of the military services.
“Raising the sales age for tobacco nationwide is one of several policy changes that are essential to reach the tobacco endgame of eliminating tobacco use and nicotine addiction,” said Nancy Brown, the head of the American Heart Association, which offered its quick support.
NEW: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Kaine have just announced on the Senate floor legislation to raise the federal age for the legal purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. Both concerned about growing use of e-cigarettes by teens.— Mitchell Miller (@mmillerwtop) May 20, 2019
McConnell is running for re-election in 2020, and as the leader of the Senate, he could bring the bill up for action at any time.