While most of Washington was focused on Attorney General William Barr Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to introduce a bill that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The bill, if approved, would also cover vaping devices.
“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country,” McConnell said in a statement.
Certain members of the military would be exempt from the bill.
McConnell’s proposal comes as several states have enacted similar laws. He put the count at 11 and says his bill will be largely based on those state laws. McConnell will formally introduce the bill to the Senate next month.
The news hurt shares of Big Tobacco companies, though they did show some recovery after the initial shock. In mid-morning trading, Altria was down 3%, while Philip Morris was off 2%.
Government health officials have been increasingly worried about teen smoking, noting that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. Tobacco-smoking adults that use vapes also have a significantly higher chance of heart attack, coronary heart disease and depression, according to the largest-ever study conducted on vaping, published in March.