Tobacco Growers Co-Op Doesn't Oppose Bill To Raise Tobacco Use Age, Despite Republican Opposition
The Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee voted down a bill Monday that would have raised the age of legal tobacco use from 18 to 21 years of age. One of the reasons it was voted down was to protect downsizing state tobacco growers. But Kentucky’s burley tobacco growers co-op manager says the bill probably wouldn’t affect Kentucky farmers much, and he doesn’t oppose the bill.
State Senator Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, who voted against Senate Bill 249, is a west Kentucky tobacco farmer on the committee. He said the main reason he voted down the bill is because he doesn’t want to hurt the state tobacco industry any further, with the trend of people using less tobacco products across the nation.
“I just felt like we were not allowing the production of tobacco that’s so important to western Kentucky, to remain whole, and not be harmed further and not impact our farmers and the families that represent western Kentucky,” Humphries said.
Humphries said dark fire tobacco grown in west Kentucky, used to make smokeless tobacco products, might have been especially hurt by the bill.
But Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association General Manager Steve Pratt doesn’t oppose the bill. Pratt said the bill probably wouldn’t have affected Kentucky tobacco growers much because more young people are vaping, which doesn’t use tobacco.
“It’s the vaping industry that’s more of the issue than it is traditional cigarettes in getting the youth addicted to nicotine,” Pratt said. “I’m not sure how much it would actually hurt the burley tobacco farmer in Kentucky if they did that, because like I said, the youth target right now is the vaping industry.”
Pratt said the cooperative encourages any effort to reduce youth tobacco use because of tobacco’s harmful effects.
An international research study published in 2018 found cigarette use among young people in the United States continues to decrease while vaping is increasing. The National Agricultural Statistics Service projected about 57,000 acres of burley tobacco would be planted in Kentucky in 2018, down from over 200,000 acres in the 1990s.
Humphries said a new version of SB 249 still could be reconsidered by the committee in the future.