HEALTH bosses in the US are set to raise the age limit for buying tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21.
It comes as a vaping lung disease continues to sweep the country with the current death toll now reaching 52.
Lawmakers hope to pass the £1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) spending bill before current government funding runs out on Saturday.
If passed before then, it'll mark one of the biggest tobacco reforms enacted in decades.
The Tobacco-Free Youth Act add-on would raise the current age of 18 for tobacco products purchases of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other products.
Legislation was introduced earlier this year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky - where there has been a rise in illnesses.
Stunned the nation
He said: "Since I introduced my legislation earlier this year to raise the minimum nationwide purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, stories of vaping related illnesses and deaths - especially among young people - have stunned Kentucky and the nation."
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has also supported legislation, said: "This legislation will have an enormous positive impact on public health in America, and it’s needed now more than ever as we grapple with the youth e-cigarette epidemic."
Congress is expected to pass the measure and send it to President Trump before the end of the year, McConnell said.
More than six million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
E-cigarettes were the most common product among high school-age kids, the agency said.
Earlier this year, officials confirmed the vaping death toll hit 52 across 26 states.
Another 2,409 people have been left in hospital with the mystery lung illness - dubbed EVALI, which stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.”
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They're not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it's relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There's no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
The federal agency has been releasing weekly figures as the crisis continues to grow.
US health officials previously said there may be more than one cause behind the nationwide outbreak.
Investigators have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, as being especially risky, but have not yet tied the cases to any specific product or compound.
Last month, heart specialists in Germany found that one use of an e-cig increased heart rates and stiffened arteries.
They also noted that vaping damages the lining of the blood vessels - known by the medical term, the endothelium - stopping it from working properly.
By doing so, they said, it increases a vaper's risk of heart disease.
Public Health England has dismissed fears over e-cigarettes in the wake of the deaths linked to vaping in the US.
PHE promotes the devices as a smoking cessation aid, deeming them to be 95 per cent safer than smoking.
E-cigs don't contain tobacco - which causes lung cancer - however they do contain nicotine, which is known to be bad for the heart.
As a result it is widely accepted that vaping is a better option, for those trying to quit smoking.
But, concerns have been raised about a new generation hooked on e-cigs, who have never smoked - as well as ex-smokers who fail to quit vaping.
Prof Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “E-cigarettes contain far fewer of the damaging chemicals which can cause diseases related to smoking tobacco, but that doesn't mean they are risk-free.
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“E-cigarettes still contain other chemicals, metals, and flavouring which affect our heart and blood vessel health.
“This study reinforces that vaping should never be taken up by people who don't already smoke and emphasises the need for more research into the long-term impact of vaping on our health.”