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Legislative Bill Targets Young Smokers

A Washington House committee voted today (Friday) to make it illegal to sell cigarettes or other tobacco or vapor products to anyone under the age of 21.

Current law forbids the selling of those products to people younger than 18.

At a public hearing on the bill last week, the commander of the Washington Air National Guard said he supports the bill because it would help to keep tobacco products away from young service men and women.

Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax) cited that testimony when he offered an amendment to make the legal age 19, not 21.

“If I’m going to allow and ask a young man or woman to sacrifice for our country, and yet tell them you can’t smoke a legal substance, I struggle with that and so I would urge adoption of this amendment. I think it’s a good compromise,” Rep. Schmick said.

Rep. Eileen Cody (D-Tacoma) disagreed.

“I would say that we don’t let them drink until they’re 21 and this is much more addictive than the alcohol, so I would ask for a ‘no’ vote,” Rep. Cody said.

And she got it. The Health Care and Wellness Committee not only voted down that amendment, it went ahead and approved the bill by a 12-to-four vote.

The legislation has several other provisions. It forbids shop owners from giving free samples of vapor products, unless the store is restricted to customers 21 or older. Those shop owners must display signs that show the age restrictions for buying tobacco and vapor products. And tobacco products may not be sold in vending machines, unless they’re in areas where people younger than 21 can’t get to them.

The bill now moves to the full House.