Raising the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 is expected to be passed into law by the end of the week. The bipartisan congressional plan was included in a sweeping budget bill. For those members in the military, there is no exception to the law. With thousands of young Americans in mind, this decision is considered a “lifesaving” change; and according to advocates, they are estimating that this change will decrease smoking-related cancers and respiratory illnesses by more than 220,000 cases.
The two, driving-force lawmakers of this law are Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va, which is ironic because their home states have strong ties to the tobacco industry. This law has been in the works for a while, but what brought it into full focus was the recent cases of vaping illnesses and deaths. When the legislation was first introduced by McConnell, he considered exempting the new age limits for the military; however, after consulting with public health advocates, he decided that this was a public health issue; military members should not be treated differently, and the same public health protections should be extended to them.