Wash. State Could Be First to Bump Smoking Age to 21

Bill would make tobacco age same as pot age
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2015 12:13 AM CST
Cigarette packs are displayed at a convenience store.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(Newser) – You have to be 21 to legally buy marijuana in Washington, and the state is thinking about bringing in the same age limit for tobacco. The state's attorney general—saying "We must do more to protect our youth from tobacco's grip"—introduced a proposal this week to raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21 for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, reports the Spokesman-Review. The bill would make Washington the first state to raise the smoking age that high. Similar proposals in Colorado and Utah failed last year, although some counties and cities, including New York, have successfully brought in the 21 age limit.

"Research shows the young adult brain, still developing between 18 and 21, is highly susceptible to nicotine addiction," says Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose bill warns that 90% of smokers begin as teenagers and the years 18 to 21 are when many of them transition from occasional to daily use. The legislation will cost the state an estimated $20 million a year in tax revenue if it passes, reports Reuters. It's expected to face stiff opposition from the tobacco industry. "I think it's a ridiculous law," the owner of a Spokane smoke shop tells the Spokesman-Review. "I think if a person can be drafted and go to war, they're old enough to smoke," he adds, estimating that around a quarter of his customers are under 21.

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