After my post earlier this week, communications staffers with Senator McConnell’s office reached out with some more information about the bill to raise the smoking and vaping age to 21.
I wanted to first share some of that information about why McConnell is taking this bipartisan step (along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). In a story in the Kentucky media, McConnell explains some of his justification,
McConnell noted the epidemic has worsened in recent years as vaping has gained popularity among high-school and even middle school students. The e-cigarettes, such as Juul, still contain nicotine, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million, with more than 1 in 4 high school students having reported using a tobacco product in the past 30 days.
McConnell said he doesn’t expect raising the national age to “solve every problem, but it will sure make it harder for 18 year olds to pass these products along to middle schoolers.”
“It’s time to tackle this public health crisis and I’d like Kentucky to be in the forefront of doing that,” he said.
McConnell acknowledged in a speech on the Senate floor that he seems an “unusual candidate” to lead the charge, but said the negative health effects of tobacco can not be ignored despite tobacco’s “storied past” in Kentucky and the U.S. He recounted some of tobacco’s sway in the Senate, noting that there are still spittoons in the chambers and there once were snuffboxes. The residue on the floors at the Capitol, he noted, was “so considerable that Charles Dickens warned fellow visitors not to pick up anything they dropped.”
But, he said, times have changed: “Kentucky farmers don’t want their children to get hooked on tobacco products while they’re in middle school or high school any more than any parent anywhere wants that to happen.”
A few more important bullet points from McConnell’s press release are below as well:
- “Use of any tobacco product grew by 38.3% among high school students (2017-2018).” (“Tobacco Use By Youth Is Rising,” CDC Vital Signs, CDC Website, Accessed 5/20/2019)
- “This was a considerable increase from 2017, which was driven by an increase in e-cigarette use.” (“Tobacco Use By Youth Is Rising,” CDC Vital Signs, CDC Website, Accessed 5/20/2019)
- “Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.” (“E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016)
- “E-cigarettes can expose users to several chemicals, including nicotine, carbonyl compounds, and volatile organic compounds, known to have adverse health effects.”(“E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016)
All of this is interesting and valid, but still smacks more than a bit like the government playing nanny. Consider this recent story about cancer that came out this week. According to CNN, more than 80,000 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to a new study.
What should the government do about the scourge of obesity? Is that next on the docket, and if so, how will that government “help” manifest? One can argue, quite easily, that obesity is a greater health risk, when it comes to the number of possible complications of obesity (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc) and a larger number of people possibly being affected.
This is always the fear of small-government conservatives when it comes to well-meaning government proposals meant to save us from ourselves: what next?Published in