BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Thursday U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to introduce legislation to the U.S. Senate to raise the age to buy tobacco nationwide from 18 to 21.
During the announcement, Senator McConnell was joined by President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky Ben Chandler, State Senator Julie Raque Adams, and State Representative Kim Moser.
"I was proud to join my former colleague Ben Chandler who has been a leader on this issue in Kentucky. Senator Adams and Representative Moser championed the initiative to make all schools in Kentucky tobacco-free, and my legislation will build on their progress to protect the health of our teens nationwide," said McConnell.
The proposed legislation includes all tobacco products, including vaping devices.
In Bowling Green, Remedy Vapor owner Sam Freeman told 13 News his store has been improving people's lives for six years.
"They are able to go workout again or they have more energy when they go to work," said Freeman.
Freeman believes vapor is actually a better alternative to tobacco and something legislators should reconsider.
"Many people use these products with no nicotine in them whatsoever," said Freeman. "The thing that we found with legislation as it's gone through is they treat everything one and the same."
McConnell said this is important to protect the health of teenagers.
“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. Unfortunately, it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country,” said Senator McConnell. “My legislation will be similar to the current system, where retailers have the responsibility to verify the age of anyone buying tobacco products—we’ll just raise the age from 18 to 21. Eleven states have enacted laws to raise the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21. These bills will serve as helpful guidance as I craft my federal legislation. For example, my bill will include an exemption for men and women who serve in uniform, similar to state T21 laws.”
Freeman believes the legislation would have negative impacts.
"15 percent of our revenue comes from people from the age of 18-21," said Freeman. "This would affect not only vape, the vape industry, but that's over a million dollars in collected taxes for the state of Kentucky."
McConnell said the most serious threat is teens under the age of 18 having access to vaping devices.
Officials said Kentucky leads the nation with 34 percent of cancers tied directly to smoking and when teens vape, they could be taking the first steps toward serious health problems throughout their lives.
Officials said 45 percent of Kentucky high school students report having tried vaping.
The legislation will be introduced in May.