LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- As Kentucky is ranked among the states with the highest rates of cancer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) is proposing a new federal law to raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Some doctors feel that keeping younger adults from buying tobacco and using it could curb the rate of cancer deaths from addiction. However, not all agree the bill McConnell's pledged to file would work as it's intended.
- Sen. Mitch McConnell has pledged to file a bill to raise the minimum age requirement to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 from 18.
- Some doctors feel that keeping young adults under 21 from buying and using tobacco could prevent addiction.
- Others, like smoke shop employees, feel it would entice teens to illegally use the products.
People looking to puff on tobacco products must be 18 or older to purchase them in Kentucky. That could change to 21, if a bill that's soon to be filed passes.
"These young people may not now what chemicals they're putting into their bodies," Sen. McConnell said as he announced his idea.
As some politicians prefer people be at least 21 to purchase, doctors are joining the conversation.
“I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a politician. I’m a doctor. I see the outcomes of using tobacco. And in my world, I would love to have nobody use tobacco," Norton Cancer Group's Joseph Flynn, D.O., MPH, said.
Flynn says the years between 18 and 21 are important.
“So it’s an interesting thing, the sooner you start, the more likely you’re going to be addicted to the product and use it longterm," he says, "obviously the longer and more intensive you utilize tobacco the more likely you’re going to have a bad outcome- it’s not just cancer, it’s heart disease, lung disease, other things.”
One Louisville smoke shop employee disagrees with the bill to raise the age. She requested to be unnamed, but told Spectrum News 1: "I think it’s crazy. I think it should be lowered.”
The employee feels the underage will find a way to get their hands on tobacco anyway. She believes kids would be more drawn to the devices in order to be labeled deviant.
“I mean it’s a little crazy when there are so much other things you can do technically as an adult at the age of 16," she said.
McConnell has promised to file the bill in May.