Oregon is about to become the third state in the nation to raise the age for buying tobacco products to 21. The measure passed in the State House by a 39-to-20 vote on July 6. Although the Senate passed the measure in March, 19 to 8, SB 754 will need to return to the Senate floor for a concurrence vote before heading to the governor’s desk.
Gov. Kate Brown has indicated her support for the measure that will raise the legal minimum sales age for all nicotine and tobacco products to 21. After Senate concurrence, with her action, Oregon will follow Hawaii and California to raise the tobacco-buying age. The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.
“As a physician, I’m committed to passing legislation to improve the health and lives of Oregonians. That’s why I’m proud to be the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 754, which will prevent young people from a lifetime of tobacco and e-cigarette addiction,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton). “If signed by the governor, this new law will go a long way to preventing cancer as well as heart and lung disease.”
Added Eric Brodell, western regional director of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, “Ninety-five percent of all smokers take up the habit before age 21, and raising the age has been shown to reduce high school smoking by half. In Oregon, alcohol and recreational marijuana sales are already set at age 21. Tobacco, which kills almost 500,000 Americans each year, is clearly more dangerous to kids. That’s why national polling shows 75 percent support for raising the age, including 70 percent of smokers.”
Tobacco 21 has been a goal of the Oregon Legislature for the past three years. This session, Steiner Hayward and more than 15 co-sponsors pushed even harder and connected with a broad coalition of more than 30 Oregon organizations representing physicians, nurses, hospitals, parents, teachers, students and service unions, according to a press release.
Not all lawmakers, however, favor the measure.
As kgw.com reports, House minority leader Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) agreed with the measure’s promoters that tobacco is unhealthy, but he said it shouldn’t be regulated because it doesn’t impair users like marijuana or alcohol.
“At a certain point you’ve got to decide: where’s the line? I draw it at impairment,” he said.
Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) said it’s unfair to 18-year-olds who are legally adults who can get married, sign contracts, join the military and vote—but will not have the liberty to choose whether to smoke.
“We can’t legislate everything,” he said, according to the news outlet.
SB 754 would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.