An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WA Lawmakers Propose To Raise Legal Smoking, Vaping Age To 21

Washington Department of Health

Washington Health Department officials are again asking the legislature to raise the legal age for buying tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.

The bill received a hearing in the House Health Care Committee today [Tuesday].

Health Secretary John Wiesman says it’s the most important step lawmakers can to protect the health of young people.

The bill has the support of state military officials, such as Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Cooper from the National Guard.

“Tobacco use degrades our military’s ability as a fighting force, causes significant health problems for military members and makes recruiting an even tougher challenge," Cooper testified. "Today, just one-in-four, 25% of our youth, aged 17-to-24, are qualified to serve in the military. Obesity and other medical problems disqualify the largest portion of those individuals from military service. Many of those medically disqualifying conditions are things that are either caused by or aggravated by tobacco use.”

State health department officials say an internal review shows increasing the legal age is likely to drop tobacco use by minors and those in that 18-to-21 range.

Opponents such as Matthew Page disagree. They say many smokers will continue to feed their habits by going to tribal reservations or other sources to buy their cigarettes.

“Now that I’m a dad, I look at my son and I don’t want him to be smoking. I don’t want him to be vaping. I fully agree with protecting the children. I just don’t see how this bill would work. Even at that age, I was getting it from a guy who was well in his thirties when I was in high school,” Page said.

Similar bills have made progress in the legislature, but haven’t become law. A companion bill in the Senate will get a hearing on Friday morning.

Related Content