The legal age to buy tobacco products and vaping products would rise from 18 to 21 under a bill requested by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
“As you know you have to be 21 to purchase alcohol in this state. You have to be 21 to purchase marijuana in this state. It’s time to make the age of the purchase and use of tobacco in this state that same age,” he said at a press conference announcing the bill. The bill numbers are Senate Bill 5494 and House Bill 1458.
Ferguson said the intent of the bill is to eradicate smoking, citing reports by RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris that stated that most people who have not smoked by age 21 will not start the habit.
State Department of Health Secretary John Weisman added that 90 percent of cigarettes purchased for teenagers are purchased by people between the ages of 18 and 21.
The bills would not affect military bases in Washington and the laws on reservations would vary by tribe, according to Ferguson’s office.
Ferguson and bill supporters say that the change is a matter of public health, which will save money in the long run as people don’t suffer tobacco-related disease.
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, a sponsor of the bill in the House, said she watched both her parents struggle with quitting smoking, which they started in their teens.
“It’s a life of addiction,” she said.
Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, said that the effects of smoking are widespread and devastating.
“All of us have a personal story of how smoking has affected us,” he said. His wife’s parents both died 20 years ago of smoking-related complications.
Miloscia said that he aimed to get the legislation passed within three years.
Ferguson’s office said that as of Wednesday, there were 10 sponsors in the House, and three in the Senate.
Several cities and counties have set legal smoking ages at 21, including New York City and Hawaii’s Big Island, but no state yet has a smoking age that high.
The legal smoking age is 19 in four states, including Alaska, Utah and New Jersey, which last year considered a bill to raise the age from 19 to 21. Colorado and Utah have also considered raising the age to 21.
TVW taped the press conference. It will be added to this post when it’s available in our archives.