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KY Senate Green-Lights Bill to Raise Tobacco-Buying Age to 21

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it gave Kentucky $1.5 million in 2018 for use toward tobacco prevention programs. (Adobe Stock)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it gave Kentucky $1.5 million in 2018 for use toward tobacco prevention programs. (Adobe Stock)
January 27, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The bill aims to reduce access to e-cigarettes among teens and young adults.

While Kentucky brings in more than $500 million a year from tobacco sales, Ben Chandler, president and CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says only around $3 million is budgeted for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. He says the state needs to work harder to stop the next generation from becoming hooked on nicotine.

"Vaping products are considered tobacco products and consequently, they would be under this law," he points out. "And we've seen an epidemic in the use of those products by young people."

The bill is sponsored by Republican Sens. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester and Danny Carroll of Paducah.

According to a 2019 survey, 53% of high school students in the Commonwealth have tried e-cigarettes. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

Chandler adds passing Senate Bill 56 would also help the state comply with a new federal law, known as the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, that raises the national minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. He says at least 19 states already have passed similar legislation.

"Studies have shown that if you raise the age to 21, middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, are much less likely to get hold of those products," Chandler points out.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services says more than 8,000 Kentuckians die of tobacco-related illnesses each year.

The agency also estimates that annual health care costs for treating people with smoking related diseases tops $1.2 billion.

Disclosure: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues, Smoking Prevention, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY