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Proposal to raise tobacco sales age draws mixed reactions

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MILWAUKEE (CBS/CBS 58) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 nationally.

Experts say raising the age to buy tobacco could stop people under 21 from smoking, but some smokers and vapors believe that should be their own choice to make.

Myra Medora tells CBS 58 she started smoking when she was a teen and would like to see legislation passed to raise the age to buy cigarettes to 21 so others won’t be in her situation.

“I wish I never started so I think it's good to make it harder to start smoking,” Medora said. “I've tried to quit three to four times it's difficult it sucks.”

Smoking, the nation's leading cause of preventable disease, is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year.

“You definitely should raise the age it will get a lot of these kids that don't know what they're out here doing and doing it because the next person is doing it,” Julian Brown said.

But, not everyone agrees.

“I think it should stay the same, why change it now after all this time?” Katinee Shawanokasic.

The Senate leader said his bill will cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices.

McConnell said Thursday he considers teen vaping to be the "most serious threat" his new legislation will seek to combat. Vaping is an electronic form of smoking.

"For some time, I've been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children," McConnell said.

Milwaukee shops say vaping helps their customers quit smoking cigarettes and the change could hurt some of their long-time clients.

“That would be my hardest part is telling someone who's 20 years old that I can't sell vape products to them after they've already been vaping,” Lakeview Vapor’s Matthew Murphy.

Many believe the age requirement change would make it harder for teens who might try to get them illegally.

“When you're 16 and you want to start smoking it's easier to find someone that's 18,” Medora said. “But it's harder to find someone that's 21.”

The bill will be introduced in May. 

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