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McConnell Plan to Raise Nicotine Access to Age 21 Could Backfire

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Citing health concerns about youth vaping, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced legislation to raise the nationwide minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. That plan will have adverse consequences for young adults who already smoke, warns Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Michelle Minton.

“We share Sen. McConnell’s concerns about youth initiation of nicotine use but fear the unintended consequences of regulating all nicotine-containing products as if they have the same risks. Millions of young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 are already addicted to smoking. Discouraging or preventing these young adults from switching to safer alternatives, like e-cigarettes, will only make it more likely that they continue to smoke, potentially for the rest of their lives.

“There are other ways to address youth vaping without deterring adult smokers from switching to less harmful products.”

According to the CDC, nearly 1 of every 50 middle school students (1.8%) and about 2 of every 25 high school students (8.1%) reported in 2018 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Minton has authored several reports on the politics of e-cigarettes, which pose far less health risk compared to combustible cigarettes.

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