Kaine, McConnell bill would raise minimum age to buy tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — This week the CDC reported 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products nationwide.

On Friday, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) met with students to discuss efforts to address the epidemic. Health advocates have long raised alarms that the products are getting youths addicted to nicotine.

Kaine hopes his bill, the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, can help. The bill is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and would raise the age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

Every day, students are learning more about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes.

“A lot of people are testing these things and they are told they are safer than cigarettes when in actuality they are not safer,” said Noora Long, a Virginia student.

“I’m just here to be more informed about the topic,” said Aaron Queen, another Virginia student.

Students joined educators, health experts and other stakeholders to discuss vaping concerns with Kaine. Kaine believes his bipartisan bill could play a critical role in improving public health.

“We are seeing all these mysterious illnesses connected to vaping,” Kaine said.

The Trump administration blames flavored vaping products for attracting young people, and federal leaders say they are working on a plan to ban them.

Republican Congressman David Kustoff said more research on e-cigarettes is needed to determine the risks and potential solutions.

“There’s a whole lot more that we need to learn before decisions are made or need to be made,” Kustoff said.

Kaine said conversation with young people about prevention is also important .

“What are the kinds of messages and the ways we can get messages to young people so they don’t start vaping or e-cigarettes at all, Kaine said.

E-cigarette giant Juul said it plans to work with policymakers and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers.