OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) – Raising the minimum legal purchasing age could help young adults in Washington from becoming established smokers, according to one researcher.

“We know from previous studies, we know that most of the period between 18 and 21 is a period in which smokers begin to transition from experimental smoking to regular smoking. So, that is a very critical period for teens and young adults to become an established smoker,” Jidong Huang, associate professor at the Georgia State University and former senior research scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Health Research and Policy Health Policy Center, told Legal Newsline.

Huang said that research done by the National Academy of Medicine, formerly called the Institute of Medicine, showed that raising the legal age would change smoking rates among teens and young adults.

“What they found out, based on previous research and predictive modeling, is that raising minimum purchasing age to 21 will reduce smoking prevalence among adolescents and young adults," he said. "Specifically the report says raising the minimum purchasing age to 21 will reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and it will also reduce the smoking-related deaths by about 10 percent.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has also given his support to Bill 1054, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco and vapor products to those younger than 21 years old.

A survey done by Elway Research showed that the bill was supported by 65 percent of residents in the state. If passed, Washington would be the third state to change the legal age to 21. Hawaii and California have already passed the law.

Huang said there were 215 localities that have also enacted a similar law.

“Those localities include big cities like New York City in New York State, Boston in Massachusetts and Chicago in Illinois,” he said.

He said that the move was “encouraging” but hoped to see more done on a policy level.

“I think what is important to remember is that this law is only a part of comprehensive tobacco control strategies,” Huang said. “If the states and localities were also adopting other smoke-free air policies the impact on smoking would be greater and would be larger.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 9 out of every 10 cigarette smokers tried smoking before the age of 18.

It estimates 3,200 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette each day and that 2,100 youth and young adults become daily nicotine users.

The bill was given first reading on Jan. 9 and was referred to finance on Feb. 7. It was also given a public hearing at the finance committee on Feb. 20.

The bill has been sponsored by Rep. Paul Harris (RP), Rep. Eileen Cody (D), Rep. Tina Orwall (D), Rep. Richard DeBolt (RP), Rep. Norm Johnson (RP), Rep. Joan McBride (D), Rep. Judy Clibborn (D), Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D), Rep. June Robinson (D), Rep. Jake Fey (D), Rep. Christine Kilduff (D), Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D), Rep. Cindy Ryu (D), Rep. Terry Nealey (RP), Rep. Roger Goodman (D), Rep. Steve Tharinger (D), Rep. Derek Stanford (D), Rep. Noel Frame (D), Rep. Drew Stokesbary (RP), Rep. Gerry Pollet (D), Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D), Rep. Larry Haler (RP), Rep. Ruth Kagi (D), Rep. Mark Hargrove (RP), Joe Fitzgibbon (D), Rep. Sherry Appleton (D), Rep. Mike Chapman (D), Rep. Tana Senn (D), Rep. Steve Bergquist (D), Rep. Mia Gregerson (D), Rep. Jesse Young (RP), Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D), Rep. Vandana Slatter (D).  

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Washington State Office of the Attorney General
1125 Washington St SE
Olympia, WA 98501

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