Kentucky Lawmakers File Bills to Prevent Youth Nicotine Use

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As vaping related illness continue to climb in Kentucky, lawmakers are hoping legislation can prevent children from getting their hands on tobacco or e-cigarettes.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, prefiled a bill to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21 in Kentucky. His legislation would include all current and future tobacco products including e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.  

Alvarado says he hopes raising the age to buy vaping products or tobacco will make it harder  for youth to develop a habit.

“Youth tobacco use had been declining for decades, but it has suddenly skyrocketed since the introduction of e-cigarettes and vapes,” said Sen. Alvarado in a release. “The science is clear that adolescents and teens are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of nicotine and other toxins in tobacco products. This bill is a common-sense, widely supported measure to help keep tobacco out of the hands of kids.”

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is applauding the measure.

“Most teens get tobacco from older friends who can buy the products legally, but youth under age 18 typically don’t hang out with people who are 21 or older, so the bill helps cut off a major social source of tobacco for kids,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky in a release. “Another key reason we support Sen. Alvarado’s Tobacco 21 bill is that it puts the responsibility on retailers to post signs and check ID, rather than on kids who may be addicted due to the massive marketing of e-cigarettes that has been targeted to youth.

A T-21 bill was proposed and discussed in a Senate committee during the 2019 session but it failed to get enough support to make it to the Senate floor.

Nationally, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has proposed a bill to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21.

That’s not the only measure lawmakers are hoping can help stop the resurgence of youth nicotine use. Covington Democrat Representative Buddy Wheatley prefiled a bill to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vapes.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says if passed this could make vaping less appealing to minors .

“Adolescents and teens are drawn to e-cigarettes because of the flavors and then get addicted to the nicotine,” Chandler said. “Rep. Wheatley’s bill would cut off a primary reason kids use these dangerous products and keeps them from becoming the next generation addicted to nicotine. It’s an addiction that will haunt them the rest of their lives.”

 The 2020 session starts January 7.