Washington Could Become First State To Raise Smoking Age To 21

The era of walking into a store and buying that first nudie magazine and pack of cigarettes upon turning 18 might soon be a thing of the past for presidents of Washington State, as legislators there are proposing a new age threshold for those who want to light up.

Teens would be legally shut out of the tobacco industry until they aged up to 21 under a proposal put forward this week by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, reports The Spokesman-Review.

It’d make the state the first in the country to raise the age to 21, after both Utah and Colorado tried and failed in 2014. There are a few cities and counties scattered across the nation where it’s 21 — including New York City — and in Alabama, Alaska, Utah and New Jersey it’s 19.

“We must do more to protect our youth from tobacco’s grip, and this bill is an important step toward keeping nicotine out of the hands of kids and young adults,” Ferguson says.

His bill says more than 90% of smokers start as teenagers, calling the years between ages 18 and 21 a “critical period” where casual tobacco users move into daily use.

The law would include cigarettes and all tobacco products, as well as vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Possession of such items under 21 would also be illegal, which means no getting older friends to nab you a pack on the sly.

Ferguson says the state would be partially compensated for a potential $20 million loss in tax revenue through 2017 if the legislature passes the governor’s proposed tobacco tax hikes.

Washington smoking age could jump from 18 to 21 [The Spokesman-Review]