Colorado, Utah Propose: Under 21? No Smokes

More votes needed in states with already low smoking rates

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 21, 2014 8:15 AM CST

(Newser) – Colorado and Utah are taking a page from Michael Bloomberg's book: Both states have moved to raise the smoking age to 21, following a similar bill passed in New York City last fall. The proposals were given the initial go-ahead yesterday, and though more votes are needed, this is the furthest any state has gone to rein in teen access to cigarettes, the AP notes. Utah—with the nation's lowest smoking rate at 12% as of 2011—is already one of only four states that require tobacco purchasers to be 19. The smoking rate is low in Colorado, too, at about 18%, but health advocates only want to see it fall.

"What I'm hoping to do is make it harder for kids to obtain cigarettes," says Colorado Rep. Cheri Gerou, while a Utah woman adds, "By raising the age limit, it puts them in a situation where they're not going to pick it up until a much later age." A study last year found 90% of daily smokers have their first cigarette by 18, and 90% of those who buy cigarettes for minors are between 18 and 20. Still, the Salt Lake Tribune notes it was an "emotional debate" in Utah, with opponents arguing adults should be free to make their own choices—even if they're bad ones—and noting a "slippery slope" could lead to bans on high-calorie foods ... or teen motorcycle riding.

A high school student, who preferred not to be identified, smokes a cigarette in Monument, Colo., Thursday Feb. 20, 2014.
A high school student, who preferred not to be identified, smokes a cigarette in Monument, Colo., Thursday Feb. 20, 2014.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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