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Military members can’t use tobacco until 21 years old in new budget deal

A man smoking a cigarette. (MaxPixel/Released)
December 17, 2019

Democratic and Republican lawmakers passed pair of bills authorizing a $1.4 trillion government funding package which included raising the age of tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 years old.

The new federal age restriction come as one of several compromise measures included in the bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and then the House Tuesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. Beyond traditional tobacco smoking, the provision includes e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

The new federal age limit would have a nationwide affect, even over states that have already raised the smoking age above 18 but below 21. The age change would not exempt members of the military.

The state of Texas passed its own age change in April of this year, but did exempt military service members at the time.

The measure reportedly gained momentum in the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added his support to the age change. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA also joined support for the measure.

A past version of the age-change legislation proposed by McConnell also included a military exemption, but he and Kaine dropped the idea after backlash from public health advocates, according to Military Times.

“As the father of a Marine and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I feel strongly we should extend the same public health protections to members of the military as we do to their civilian counterparts,” Kaine said.

The change which encompasses all forms of smoking also comes amid bans on the sales of vaping products by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The overall spending bills, two in total, would set aside $1.4 trillion in government funding.

An estimated $738 billion would go to defense spending under the Department of Defense, while the other portion of the government funding is detailed in the bill that details domestic programs.

With their passage through both the House and the Senate, the spending package is on to President Donald Trump for his signature.

“The president is poised to sign it and to keep the government open,” said White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, signaling Trump’s intent to pass the spending measures.

The overall budget bills reportedly saw protracted debate by lawmakers in a divided Congress, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House.

Lawmakers from both parties compromised on issues like border wall funding, restrictions on further Pentagon funds reassigned to cover wall construction and efforts to restrict Trump’s power to wage war against Iran. Lawmakers also agreed on items like a 3.1 percent pay raise for military and civilian federal workers as well as 12 weeks of paid parental leave.