OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today expressed his disappointment with the House Finance Committee for drastically altering Ferguson’s agency-request legislation to raise the smoking age to 21.
House Bill 1458, which proposes to raise the legal age to buy, use, or possess tobacco to 21, was gutted at today’s committee hearing. The bill was amended to change the new smoking age to 19, down from the proposed 21, and significantly delay the public health impacts by pushing the effective date out four years.
The amended bill passed the committee on a 9-7 vote. The original, unaltered bill to raise the age to 21 passed the House Health Care & Wellness Committee Feb. 17, on a 12-3 vote, with strong bipartisan support.
“I am deeply disappointed by the committee’s changes, which gut the public health impacts of this bill,” Ferguson said. “I understand our state’s current budget situation, but we should not be balancing our budget on the backs of teens and jeopardizing their long-term health. We had the votes in committee to raise the smoking age immediately. I intend to work with our bipartisan group of supporters to amend this legislation on the House floor.”
Research, including a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, indicates that increasing the smoking age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce deaths from smoking; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults, and young mothers and their children.
Ferguson’s legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) and Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), would apply to tobacco and other nicotine products, including “vaping.”
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov