U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) returned to his alma mater to speak about new legislation to increase the minimum smoking age – the federal “Tobacco to 21” push.
Attitudes about smoking have changed since Young graduated from Carmel High School in a northern suburb of Indianapolis.
"We actually had a smoking lounge not too many feet from here," says Young.
The senator spoke alongside health and business leaders and students in support of a new proposal to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes or vaping products to 21.
Young and three other U.S. Senators introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act.
"I want the entire nation to understand we have a national epidemic on our hands," says Young.
Westfield High School Junior Samantha Lewis says she’s not surprised by statistics that show vaping is up as much as 78% among high school students.
"I see it and hear about it every day," says Lewis. "To me the numbers are people, they are my friends."
A similar state bill to increase the smoking age failed this year at the Statehouse. Young, who is also a parent, says he worries about young Hoosiers.
"This is a very concentrated and dangerous substance that finds itself into the bodies of our young people," Young says.
Vaping devices can contain high levels of addictive nicotine. Indiana like other states, has reported a surge in the number of young people that use e-cigarettes.