HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: Washington attorney general wants to raise smoking age to 21

22 Jan

Pictures-Of-SmokersWashington state would become the first in the country to ban tobacco for everyone under age 21 under a plan announced Wednesday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Ferguson and legislators said bills to raise the smoking age from 18 were inspired by the effectiveness of such smoking laws elsewhere. The first city to do so, Needham, Mass., in 2005, saw a drop of more than 50 percent in its high-school-smoking rate by 2012, Ferguson said.

Dozens of cities and counties have followed suit, including New York City; Suffolk County on Long Island in New York; and Hawaii County, which encompasses the “Big Island” of its state. However, bills to make the smoking age 21 failed in the past two years in New Jersey, Utah and Colorado.

Four states — Utah, New Jersey, Alabama and Alaska — and Washington, D.C., require tobacco users to be 19 or older.

Officials in Washington state cited several studies showing most adult smokers started as teenagers as justification for the change.

“For me, it’s really about helping these kids not have a lifetime of addiction,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the lead House sponsor of the bill in that chamber.

The House version of Ferguson’s bill has been referred to the Health Care and Wellness Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, a co-sponsor of the bill. State Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, lead sponsor of an identical Senate bill, said he expects a tough, possibly multiyear fight getting the change through the Capitol.

“This is the start of a conversation,” Miloscia said.

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