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Top Senate Republican would raise minimum smoking age to 21

Last Updated May 20, 2019 at 12:37 pm PDT

FILE - A person smokes a cigarette in downtown Ottawa on Sept. 29, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit

WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Republican is introducing legislation to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.

The measure by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would cover not only tobacco products, but also e-cigarettes and vapour products.

McConnell represents Kentucky, which long was one of the nation’s leading tobacco producers. But tobacco production has fallen in the state in recent year.

Kentucky has had among the highest cancer rates in the country. McConnell says the use of e-cigarettes and vaping has become “a completely new health epidemic” in his state, with growing use of those products by teenagers.

He says vaping is “a public health crisis.” McConnell says it’s up to parents and public officials to keep these products “out of high schools and out of youth culture.”

Alan Fram, The Associated Press