Bill raising age to buy tobacco passes Senate

The state Senate voted 28-10 today to raise the age to purchase tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 from 18.

The amended measure, known as Senate Bill 56, would bring Kentucky’s statute in line with new federal law raising the age to 21.

“The bottom line is this bill will reduce youth access to tobacco products, slash the number of kids who start using tobacco before age 18, decrease youth tobacco addiction and lead to lower tobacco use rates overall as these teens grow and mature into adulthood,” said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a medical doctor and sponsor of the bill. “It is common-sense law that is relatively easy to implement.”

The bill would remove status offenses for youth who purchase, use or possess tobacco products, often called PUP laws. SB 56 would still allow tobacco products to be confiscated but shift penalties to retailers who fail to follow the increased age restriction.

Alvarado added that putting children into the juvenile justice system could be counter-productive to their physical and mental health.

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville spoke in favor of SB 56

“This has really been a bipartisan, broad-based effort to protect our kids,” she said. “We were so close to having nicotine be eliminated from one of the problems we had to add for our youth across the state. Unfortunately, with the introduction of vaping ... we know have an entire population that is addicted to nicotine once again.”

SB 56 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.