With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate on Thursday sent President Donald Trump a plan to raise the legal age for buying all tobacco products to 21 years, all part of a pre-Christmas rush in Congress to wrap up legislative work for 2019.
"This is an enormous victory for the health of young people," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who joined with the Senate's top Republican - both from tobacco-producing states - to enact the stricter tobacco purchase age.
19 states and the District of Columbia already had laws on the books which did not allow people under 21 from buying tobacco products - now that will be extended nationwide.
"Raising the minimum sales age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, will help reduce tobacco use, nicotine addiction and tobacco-related disease and death," the American Heart Association said in backing the provision.
The tobacco plan was tucked into a larger package of eight funding bills for the federal government - along with a number of other provisions unrelated to federal spending - prompting some complaints from lawmakers.
"We're given no choice but to support or oppose the whole thing," said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), part of a handful of Republicans who have grumbled about the process involved with these two bills, the details of which were unveiled only on Monday night.
"We can do better," Lee added on the Senate floor.
But Lee and others were in a familiar year-end position, as Congressional leaders pressed for final action on a series of bills in order to allow members to scurry home for the holidays.
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