Recently, U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) – along with Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) – introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act, which is bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21.

Senator Todd Young at Carmel High School talking about his Tobacco 21 Act and why it’s desperately needed.

“The nationwide epidemic of tobacco and electronic cigarette use among high school and middle school students can no longer be ignored. Roughly 95% of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 21, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year. More must be done at the federal level to prevent future smokers from starting, and experts consistently recommend raising the tobacco age as a top priority to protect our kids and reduce health care costs,” said Sen. Young in the announcement.

Since then, Indiana’s senior U.S. senator has been holding press conferences throughout the state on this topic. With smoking reform also being a top priority for the Indiana Chamber, we have been joining Sen. Young at the podium at several of these events, including ones in Carmel, South Bend and Lafayette.

Beyond the health care costs, smoking amounts to $2.8 billion in business productivity losses for Hoosier employers each year. Factoring everything together, smoking comes in at a significant $6.2 billion annual hit.

More than 60% of Hoosiers favor raising the legal smoking age to 21 (as well as a cigarette tax increase). It’s time government listened.

We appreciate Sen. Young taking up this mantle in Congress and commend him for recognizing the urgency for action, which is something the Indiana General Assembly has failed to see. With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) also championing the smoking reforms, there is real hope that something can get done at the federal level.

You can make a different on this issue by contacting your state and federal representatives.

Greg Ellis is vice president of federal relations for the Indiana Chamber. He joined the organization in 2016.