Washington state lawmakers have proposed a bill potentially changing the legal age of buying tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21 years old.
The bill in question, House Bill 2313, was proposed in an effort to advance public health, safety and welfare of youth. The proposed bill states raising the age limit will limit the amount of people able to buy tobacco products and will decrease the number of high school students smoking.
Individuals found in violation of the bill would be charged with a gross misdemeanor, according to the bill.
“I think it is a good idea, but I don’t think it will make a large impact on people being able to get tobacco. If people really want to get tobacco, I think they will find a way to make it happen.”
Trying to get adolescents to stop smoking is a concern for these legislators because brains are vulnerable to addiction until age 25, according to the bill.
This is not the first time Washington state has tried to pass this law. In fact, Washington lawmakers have tried to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 twice before.
Washington legislatures are not the only lawmakers that have tried to get the minimum age of buying tobacco products up to 21. In 2016, Hawaii became the first state to raise the buying age of tobacco products to 21 years old, according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
The proposed law and its intended effects is based off of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. After the act passed, the number of teens consuming alcohol and drunk driving incidents saw a median decline of 16 percent, according to Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
“I think it is common knowledge that everyone’s brain does not develop up until they’re 21,” said sophomore Ian Brumbaugh. “Any toxin you put into your body can be detrimental to you, whether it is cognitive development, learning or ability to stay attentive in class. At 18, you have a young mentality and I don’t think you always use your best judgement.”
According to the bill, Washington state spends up to $2,810 billion on tobacco related health care costs.
This means an average household spends $821 in taxes on government related smoking expenditures covering health care.
Not everyone thinks the law will produce the desired effect.
“I think it is a good idea, but I don’t think it will make a large impact on people being able to get tobacco. If people really want to get tobacco, I think they will find a way to make it happen,” sophomore Zach Saylor said.
People are most likely to start smoking in their teens According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention, nine out of 10 cigarette smokers have their first cigarette by age 18.
As the number of cigarette users decrease, the amount of other tobacco products has increased. In 2015, according to the CDC, electronic cigarettes were used more frequently than regular cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes were used 16 percent of the time while regular cigarettes were used 9.3 percent of the time according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015, 3 million people used electronic cigarettes in middle school and high school, which is higher than 2014, according to Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
The bill, if passed, might have a serious impact on local tobacco shops in Bellingham.
Some smoke shop owners in Bellingham are concerned that the increase in smoking age could affect business.
“We are a smoke shop in a college town so I’d imagine it would have a pretty big impact,” Mike Waters, owner of Senate Smoke Shop, said.
“I think the law is a good idea and I’m hopeful but I’m not certain,” senior Spencer Pennington said. “Even if you raise the age on tobacco products, there will still be kids who go out and get fake IDs or have an older cousin buy (tobacco) for them. I think there would be a change, but it would take awhile to manifest.”