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News & Press: Government Affairs

Should the Smoking Age Be 21? Some Legislators Say Yes

Friday, November 6, 2015  
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While a growing number of states have turned their attention to marijuana legalization, another proposal has been quietly catching fire among some legislators-raising the legal age to buy cigarettes.

This summer, Hawaii became the first state to approve increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21 starting Jan 1. A similar measure passed the California Senate, but stalled in the Assembly. And nearly a dozen other states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

"It really is about good public health," said Democratic Hawaii state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who sponsored the legislation. "If you can keep individuals from beginning to smoke until they're at least 21, then you have a much greater chance of them never becoming lifelong smokers."
Supporters say hiking the legal age to 21 not only will save lives but will cut medical costs for states. But opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military.

Measures to raise the smoking age to 21 also were introduced this year in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, according to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, an advocacy group aimed at keeping young people from starting to smoke. Iowa and Texas considered measures to increase the legal age to 19. None of those bills passed. And just last week, a Pennsylvania legislator introduced a bill to up the minimum age there to 21. Read more


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