Tobacco sales to anyone under 21 could become illegal
A proposed law requested by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Department of Health would raise the minimum legal age of sales for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21.
The bill, HB 1074, was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 11 representatives and introduced by House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver.
HB 1074 would prohibit the purchase of tobacco and vapor products for any person under the age of 21. The current age limit is set at 18 years old.
The prefiled bill intends to decrease the number of eligible buyers in high school in order to reduce access of students to tobacco products. The text of the bill states that jurisdictions across the country have been increasing the age of sale to 21 and at least six states and 350 cities and counties have raised the legal sales age.
John Smith from Driftwood Vapor in Lacey, Wash., explains that the proposed bill is a good idea but won’t accomplish much. When Smith was underage, he found that it was easy to purchase tobacco products.
“It will probably reduce underage usage,” said Smith. “It won’t be eliminated, though.” He believes that adolescents and young adults will find a way to access tobacco regardless of age restrictions.
The Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization that offers advice on issues related to health, agrees with the public health implications of raising the age of legal access to such products. According to a report by the institute, among adult daily smokers, approximately 90 percent report their first use of cigarettes before the age of 19.
The institute argues that increasing the minimum legal age would likely prevent or delay the use of tobacco products by adolescents and young adults. The committee predicts that increasing the age of purchase will reduce tobacco use initiation among teenagers and improve the health of Americans.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse addresses the heightened risk of addiction to nicotine for adolescents and the negative effects on the development of the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. The center’s scientific studies of the brain have shown that humans are highly vulnerable to addictive substances until the age of 25.
HB 1074 ultimately aims to reduce the youth smoking rate in order to save lives and reduce health care costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use causes approximately 6 million deaths per year. According to the CDC, in Washington state, over $2.8 billion in health care costs can be directly attributed to the use of tobacco.
By Madeline Coats, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Local Prevention Position – Tobacco 21
Quincy Partnership for Youth
When asked about the tobacco bill in the state Legislature, Dayana Ruiz, Quincy Partnership for Youth coalition director, replied with the following.
Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in Washington State. For years, adolescent smoking rates have been declining, although nearly one in five high school seniors still uses tobacco (Healthy Youth Survey 2016). However, adolescents’ use of e-cigarettes, nicotine vapor devices, hookahs and small cigars has gone up dramatically. Great strides have been made to be rid of adolescent smoking, but new products threaten to undo the progress made therefore affecting our local vision of healthy, drug-free and successful Quincy Valley youth.
During the years from ages 18-21, youthful experimentation often accelerates into daily use. It’s a time when the adolescent brain is highly vulnerable to the effects of a powerful addictive agent like nicotine. Exposure during this period may result in permanent neurological receptor changes that lead to lifetime nicotine habits and resulting illnesses. With the parts of the brain most responsible for decision making, impulse control, sensation seeking, and susceptibility to peer pressure developing until the mid-20s, adolescent brains are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine making it harder for youth to quit once they start.
Raising the nicotine/tobacco age better protects younger teens, as 90 percent of those who provide cigarettes to kids under 18 are themselves under 21. As a result, raising the tobacco sales age to 21 has been shown to reduce high school smoking by over 50 percent. We also know that 4 out of 5 current smokers started during their adolescence, and the proposed changes to the law would help prevent youth from starting nicotine initiation.
If you have questions related to this proposed change, you may find useful information at Tobacco21.org.