Senator files bill to raise legal age to buy tobacco products

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A bill has been pre-filed that would raise the legal age in Kentucky from 18 to 21 for buying all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes.

State Senator Ralph Alvarado, a Republican and physician from Winchester, filed the bill. He says it “would help reverse the e-cigarette, or vaping, epidemic that has reached more than a quarter of Kentucky’s high school students and one in seven middle schoolers.”

The senator says the rate of youth tobacco use has skyrocketed with the introduction of e-cigarettes and says young people are most vulnerable.

The bill lays out the following regulations:

  • Define tobacco products to include current and future tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products
  • Prohibit the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21
  • Require the tobacco retailer or their employee to verify the age of the purchaser prior to the sale
  • Require tobacco retailers to post signs stating that sales to persons under the age of 21 are prohibited
  • Assess penalties against retailers that violate the law

Data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration show that 6.2 million kids use tobacco, and e-cigarettes are the most popular product among youth. The data shows this year, throughout the country, 27.5 of high schoolers and 10.5 percent of middle schoolers vaped. In 2018, Kentucky kids were already vaping at higher rates than the national averages, according to data.

“Reducing kids’ access to tobacco until they’re further along their developmental journey gives them a better shot at concentrating in school, preparing them to become contributing members of a healthy Kentucky workforce, and avoiding a lifelong addiction to nicotine,” Alvarado said.

The bill is available here. Sen. Alvarado says he will speak about his bill at a Coalition for a Smoke-Free rally in the Capitol Rotunda on January 14 at 10 a.m.

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