A proposal championed by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., setting 21 as the nationwide minimum age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products, has cleared its first hurdle in the U.S. Senate.

The Republican-controlled Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Wednesday added Young's "Tobacco 21" language to Senate Bill 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act, and agreed to advance the combined measure to the full Senate.

"This is excellent news for Hoosiers and all Americans," Young said. "I will continue working to ensure that this important life-saving legislation passes the full Senate and is signed by the president."

If enacted, tobacco retailers in Indiana, and all 50 states, could not sell tobacco products to anyone under age 21, similar to the under age 21 prohibition that applies to alcohol sales throughout the United States.

Young said hiking the minimum smoking age from 18 will help prevent many of the 95% of adults who began smoking before age 21 from taking up the habit, and reduce the roughly $300 billion in annual health care costs attributable to smoking-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"More must be done at the federal level to prevent future smokers from starting, and experts consistently recommend raising the tobacco age as a top priority to protect our kids and reduce health care costs," Young said.

The effort to raise the minimum nationwide smoking age is strongly supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — significantly increasing the odds that the measure will pass the Senate and advance for consideration by the Democratic-controlled House.

In Illinois, a new law that takes effect Monday already makes 21 the minimum age to purchase tobacco, e-cigarette and vaping products statewide, after Chicago and 30 other municipalities previously enacted the policy.

A similar effort by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, to raise the minimum smoking age in Indiana to 21 from 18 failed to advance this year at the Statehouse.
© Copyright 2020, nwitimes.com, Munster, IN