Antismoking Groups Say Bill That Lifts Tobacco-Buying Age To 21 Has A Big Flaw

The prominent bill could offer a loophole for tobacco companies

As Washington moves closer to raising the age for buying e-cigarettes and conventional tobacco products to 21 from 18 nationwide, some advocacy groups are warning that one prominent bill could offer a loophole for tobacco companies.

The Tobacco-Free Youth Act — rolled out in mid-May by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine — would lift the purchase age to 21 but also require that each U.S. state pass a law lifting its minimum age to 21 or risk losing federal funding for programs that fight substance abuse.

That approach could give tobacco companies and their statehouse lobbyists a way to weaken state and local efforts to cut down on the use of tobacco, according to some anti-tobacco groups.

“Our concern is that, whatever the intention, the impact will actually be to derail important tobacco-control measures at the state and local level,” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matt Myers said of the McConnell-Kaine legislation. He warned tobacco lobbyists could push for amendments to the state bills that would block localities from having tougher restrictions, such as bans on flavored products, in a repeat of the industry’s recent strategy in Arkansas.

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