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tv   U.S. Senate Senators on Increasing Purchasing Age for Tobacco  CSPAN  May 21, 2019 9:38am-10:00am EDT

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c-span has coverage of commencement ceremonies taking place at colleges and universities and countries across the country. featured speakers elijah cummings, acting defense secretary patrick shanahan former georgia house minority leader stacy abrams, president donald trump, and supreme court justice sonia sotomayor. our coverage starts memorial day at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span. watch on-line anytime on c-span.org and listen on the free c-span radio app. >> senate majority leader mitch mcconnell introduced a bill to raise the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21. he and co-response sore virginia democrat tim kaine spoke about the history tobacco played in their home states, and its detrimental health effects. >> today i'm introducing federal legislation to make 21 the new minimum age for
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purchasing any tobacco product anywhere in the united states. let me say that again. a new age nationwide for purchasing anything classified as a tobacco product. cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapor products and everything else. it shouldn't be 18 any longer. it should be 21. and this legislation will make that happen. now, i recognize i might seem like an unusual candidate to lead this charge. i'm the senior senator from kentucky. i've consistently stood up for our kentucky farmers, including our tobacco farmers. i champion the tobacco buyout back in 2004. but actually my long experience with this subject and my commitment to farm families are part of what's convinced me
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that now is the right time to do this. so, i'd like to say a few words about why. mr. president, tobacco's been deeply intertwined in our nation's history from the very beginning. native americans grew it and used it before european explorers ever arrived. john ross, the famous settler who later married pocahontas kick started using tobacco seeds in 1612. by the eve of the revolution, tobacco as a major export and a huge part of our colonies prosperity. many tobacco farmers were energetic early backers of independence. george washington grew tobacco at mt. vernon. at first as his primary crop and benjamin franklin's newspaper sop of the earlest ads of american tobacco ran
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alongside the essays urging americans to stand up for freedom. several million pounds tobacco were actually used as collateral to help security the funds. and it was used as a peace offering to native tribes while they were he had hadded west. like too many other parts of early american history, tobacco's development was closely linked with the sin of slavery. so tobacco's been a part of this country right from the start. so much so, in fact, that right here in the u.s. capitol, artisans replaced the traditional designs in the roman style columns and chiseled american tobacco leaves in their place. right here in this chamber we still have some old spitoons. we used to have senate snuff boxes filled on the taxpayers dime and the residue on the
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floors used to be so considerable charles dixens warned fellow visitors not to pick up anything they dropped unless they had a pair of gloves on. one of the senators that dixens admired most from that visit was henry clay. and befitting the commonwealth of kentucky and our own rich history with the crop, that legendary kentuckian was also a legendary tobacco enthusiast. when the first stop light came over the appalachians, tobacco offered the perfect opportunity to jump start their new lives. a pocketful of seeds was enough for a down payment on a new economically secured future for your family. kentucky had fertile soil, we had favorable summers and we had access to the m is -- mississippi for shipping. before long, tobacco was a stable crop for literally tens
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of thousands of kentucky farms. for a time, we led even virginia and north carolina, as the number one tobacco state. generations of farmers, even if they weren't primarily tobacco growers would plant a little corner of it to help float the rest of the operation. farming tobacco put shoes on kids' feet. it put dinner on the table. for many in kentucky, tobacco made the american dream possible. it it's central pillar of our state history. in fact, back in the early 1900's there was literally an armed conflict called the black patch war that revolved around tobacco prices, farmers against farmers, we're talking about beatings, horse whippings, barns were burned. eventually, martial law was in kentucky, neighbor on neighbor
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violence reminiscent of the civil war, all, mr. president, over tobacco prices. the conflict was actually memorialized in the book "night rider" the first novel by robert penn warren, the famous kentucky-born writer, he won multiple pulitzers and served as poet laureate. in the late 1930's senator barkley only other kentuckian to serve as a majority leader set up a top down quota system that got washington heavily involved in the tobacco market to help with price assurance for tobacco farmers. when i arrived, more that be two-thirds of kentucky farmers grew some tobacco and accounted for almost half of the production in my state. of course, mr. president, the demand for u.s. tobacco has gone down among other factors
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our naj of the health consequences have gone up. as early as the late 1800's when the transition began from all the various forms of tobacco towards the modern mass marketed, mass produced cigarette industry, there was concern. those concerns went mainstream with the surgeon general's report on smoking in the 1960's and of course, our understanding has only grown with more research. by 2004, these concerns, plus foreign competition, were making that quota system less of a helpful back stop and more of a stranglehold. there was an interest in unwinding this archaic system without pulling the rug out from under our growers. i secured the equitable--
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which the president signed in law. there were ten years of buyout payments to ease their transition. and, mr. president, what's happened since then has been a really exciting story. just as kentucky farmers once led the nation in cultivating tobacco and writing that important chapter in american history, they're now helping to write the next chapter of innovation. we're not interested in banning tobacco, we're not interested in turning our backs on adults who choose to use these products or that we're not proud of kentuckians who still grow it. as the markets settle, many try to seize the opportunity. >> the years before the buyout, many kentucky farms were growing tobacco, a quarter of all of our farmer's cash receipts statewide.
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but the buyout program ended in 2014. instead of the farms growing tobacco it's 2600. now it's only 6 percent of our total receipts from agriculture. freed from the sunk costs of a quota system, our farmers have been able to participate in a more free market and reap the benefits. in fact, overall cash receipts from agriculture are actually set a new record in 2014, the very same year the buyout ended. so, i'm proud of the 2004 policy i arrived, has been a success. kentucky farmers are taking the ball, however, and they've run with it. i mentioned that george washington initially pointed a whole lot of tobacco at mt. vernon, but before a variety of factors led him to scale it back and experiment with other things. one of those new crops was hemp. that was all the way back in the 1770's.
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well, as usual george washington knew what he was doing. industrial hemp is making a comeback today and kentucky farmers asked for help to change the outdated federal laws that confuse the plant with cannabis, and prevented them from exploring the crop. in 2014, i fought and won for farmers, the right to explore hemp through state pilot projects. and in last year's farm bill, my provision finished the job and made hemp a fully legal commodity nation-wide. and now we're seeing the future take shape right before our eyes. farmers in 99 of 120 counties are growing hemp. processors are reporting more than 50 million in gross sales and this is just one of the new crops our farmers are using to chart new directions and connect kentucky's past with its future. i realize, it's been quite a history lesson, mr. president,
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but kentuckians are used to hearing sweeping statements about our tobacco industry from folks outside the state who know none of this history and yet, have no problem forming strong opinions. we're proud of our past. we're proud of who we are. but kentucky farmers don't want their children to get hooked on tobacco products in middle school or high school any more than any parents anywhere want that to happen. kentucky is proud of what we make, but we take pride in the health and development of our children. and the sad reality is, that kentucky's been the home to the highest rates of cancer in the country. we lead the entire nation in the percentage of cancer cases died -- tied directly to smoking. we grew tobacco like none other and now we're hit with the consequences of tobacco use
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like none other. >> nationwide we're in the middle of a public health epidemic that's threatening our progress in youth tobacco use. the use of e-cigarettes and vaping. this spike has been concentrated in teenagers and not just 18 years old. moms and dads across the country have seen their middle and high schoolers pick up this new habit and start down a deadly path that our society has previously spent decades working hard to close down. from 2017 to 2018, high school students use what are classified as tobacco products, shot up by nearly 40%. that's a staggering figure, especially in a single year. and that increase was driven almost entirely by vaping. the brain is still developing at this young age. when teenagers are using tobacco they're altering their brain's chemical and
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susceptible to addiction. many vape users aren't buying the products, but sharing them with a friend and remember, 90% of adult daily smokers say they use their first tobacco product before age 19. youth vaping is a public health kroo is crisis. it's our responsibility as parent to keep the harmful products out of high schools and out of youth culture. we need to put the national age of purchase at 21. that's why i'm introducing this legislation in recognition of tobacco's storied past in kentucky and aware of the threat that all tobacco posed-- products posed now and for future generations. i'm proud to partner on this effort with senator tim kaine, who represents another commonwealth with a long history of growing tobacco and i know there's interest from members on both sides of the
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aisle, including senators young, romney, and others. this is not a zero sum between farmers and public health. we can support both. we need to support both, but the health of our children is literally at stake. and that's why making this legislation is one of my highest priorities and i'll work with my colleagues to make that happen. >> the senator from virginia. >> mr. president, i rise to support the words of my colleague, leader mcconnell, and to thank him for working on this important piece of legislation, the tobacco-free youth act. i'd like to offer some thoughts about why i've been happy to work with leader mcconnell and with other senators who share the goal of raising the national tobacco age to 21. like senator mcconnell i come from a tobacco state. the jamestown-based virginia
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company was chartered by king james landing in 1607, beginning the english colonization of the united states. two things saved them. the first was, the magnanimity of the indians in the early years when times were tough, helped them survive, helped them get over times of drought and hunger. and the second thing was the discovery of, as leader mcconnell mentioned, the fobe tobacco seeds in virginia that became such a powerful driver of the economy. had it not been for the indians the jamestown colony may have disappeared. and the ceiling in the capitol
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designed by thomas jefferson, the ceiling is circled by gold embossed tobacco leaves and we restored the capitol and we restored the embossing because we understand that tobacco helped modern virginia. in the city of richmond, where i was mayor, produced one of the largest machines factories in the world, in south richmond over decades has been a fantastic employer of local virginians, local residents. i was proud as governor to work on tobacco initiatives because of the leader indicates as we have become more aware of public health consequences there have been more need to try to stem the challenges that these health consequences create. as i was governor i worked in tandem with my republican speaker of the house to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, which was a tough, tough sell at the time back in 2009, but we made it happen.
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probably my happiest day as governor vis-a-vis tobacco was the day where i went to chesterfield county in suburban richmond and together with bipartisan legislators we celebrated results that had just come out and showed for the first time in recorded history, youth smoking rate. much like kentucky we have been above the national average, like a state you're proud of, everyone is encouraged to use it. by 2009 we were below the national average and we felt very good about that. so i'm here with senator partly because of our history, but i'm hear as he indicated because of the current challenge. we're back sliding. we're back sliding. the recent increases in youth tobacco use demonstrate we need to do more. current product use increased from 2017-2018, completely erasing the decline in tobacco product use among young that
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had been happening for many years. from the c.d.c., this increase is driven largely by e-cigarettes. more than one in fall high schoolers in 2018. one in 14 middle schoolers in 2018 had used tobacco products in the last 30 days, a dramatic increase from 2017. 1.5 million more young people used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2017, and e-cigarettes are the most commonly used products among the young and frequently used in combination with other tobacco products and the recent increase in youth use of tobacco products is heavily, heavily driven by the popularity of these cigarettes shaped like a flash drive, able to be friends-- shared with friends and with a high nicotine content. disturbingly, it's not only he
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e-cigarettes. use of tobacco increased 38% from 2017 and 2018. in virginia where we had celebrating a state that was now below the national average we're seeing 16.3% of high school youth are 0 now reporting using any tobacco product. 6.5% of those, a third of those smoke cigarettes. according to c.d.c., any use of tobacco product is considered unsafe, and the leader laid out, it starts to alter the chemistry of the brain and make a young person more pren the rest of their life to becoming addicted. it's not only addiction, but impulse control, cognition, the use of tobacco also increases among the young the likelihood of developing mood disorders like anxiety and depression. so there's a strong rational for this bill and i was honored when the majority leader asked about a month ago if i would work together with him on a
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bipartisan bill. as two senators from tobacco states, joining others to find a way to raise the rate from 18 to 21. 95% of adult smokers beginning smoking before the age of 21 and the institute of medicine did research, now the national academy of medicine, showing increasing the tobacco age to 21 will over time significantly reduce the number of young and young adults smoking as well as smoking caused deaths, improving public health and saving lives. what does our bill do? our bill raises the federal minimum wage to purchase any tobacco products from 18 to 21. we direct the fda to update their current regulation and structure for the current 18 age minimum and apply the new 21 age minimum. and we encourage the states to raise to 21 and meet those
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requirements as they currently do. and it would apply to all types of populations and all types of tobacco products including e-cigarettes. as a father of a marine and the committee, extend this, to the members of the military as we do to their civilian counterparts. so i look forward to working with the majority leader and many ours to do a good thing for our young people and raise the tobacco age to 21. as the leader mentioned, there are other senators, senators romney and young, and senators schotts and durbin. and they've invested energies in this effort and we pledge to work with all of them and we can come together on behalf of our young people. with that, mr. president, i thank you for the time and thank you to the majority leader and leave the floor. >> and the senate about to gavel in continuing debate on judicial nominations, this aftern a

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