New Bill Would Raise the Legal Smoking Age to 21 in Washington DC
Lawmakers in Washington D.C. are debating a new bill that could raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced the new legislation and is pushing to see the age limit raised in order to “reduce our youth’s exposure to a deadly habit.” Just two years, McDuffie attempted to get a similar bill passed, but it never really got off the ground after other council members rejected the idea.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has publicly spoken against a change to the age limit in the past and he still disagrees with McDuffie’s bill. Instead, he hopes to see officials look for other ways to “continue to step up efforts to discourage smoking.” Other council members are siding with McDuffie. In fact, there are five additional council members that are listed as co-sponsors on the latest version of the bill.
McDuffie insists that the legal smoking age should be increased to stop cigarettes from getting into high schools. He cited figures from the CDC, claiming that 1 out of 7 high school students smoke. “Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products will significantly reduce our youth’s exposure to the deadly habit,” he explained. “The legislation is our best tool to prevent adolescents from smoking, both presently and in the future as adults.”
Washington DC isn’t the first to consider raising the legal age to buy tobacco products. In 2013, New York City passed a law that banned stores from selling tobacco products to people under age 21, making the legal smoking age the same as the age to legally buy alcohol. Several cities in Massachusetts have also upped the legal age for tobacco use to 21.
While we can all agree that tobacco products are dangerous and need to be discouraged among teens, the DC council members are also targeting electronic cigarettes. Last month, council member Yvette Alexander pushed for a new law to ban ecig sales to minors. So far, Alexander has not supported McDuffie’s bill because she believes the age restrictions should be the same for both tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
If Washington DC and other cities start to raise the legal smoking age to 21, it’s probably only a matter of time before they make it illegal to buy ecigs unless you are the same age. What do you think is a fair age limit for purchasing tobacco products? Should there be age restrictions on buying ecigs as well?