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Sen. Majority Leader McConnell to introduce bill to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 from 18, he announced Thursday.

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McConnell will introduce the legislation, called the McConnell bill, in May, he said. The bill will cover all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

"For some time, I've been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children," McConnell said in a statement. "In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately it's reaching epidemic levels around the country."

About a dozen states have already raised the minimum buying age, and another nearly two dozen states are considering similar legislation as lawmakers combat what federal health officials have labeled an "epidemic" of teen vaping. Congressman Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, introduced a federal bill earlier this month.

McConnell's backing marks the strongest support yet in Congress, especially among Republicans who have generally opposed the move. Tobacco giants Altria, British American Tobacco and e-cigarette maker Juul have all thrown their weight behind raising the minimum buying age.

Shares of Altria slid 3.5% and shares of British American Tobacco dipped nearly 2%. Juul is privately held.

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This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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