Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. Most regular smokers begin smoking as children. If current trends continue, more than six million U.S. kids alive today will die prematurely of tobacco-related diseases. If kids can make it to adulthood without having started smoking, their risk of ever becoming smokers is low.
Reducing youth access to tobacco products in Washington has been an important initiative of the Attorney General’s Office. Helping kids to stay off tobacco during childhood and beyond was one of the objectives of the lawsuits that Washington and many other states filed against major U.S. tobacco companies during the 1990s. These cases resulted in the historic Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) of 1998.
In addition to enforcing the MSA, the Attorney General’s Office is involved in other efforts to prevent youth smoking. These initiatives include such things as negotiating agreements with national tobacco retailers for their use of “best practices” in tobacco retailing, providing federal regulators with data and legal authorities supporting more effective tobacco regulation, proposing legislation such as an increase in the legal smoking age to 21 and a ban on internet and mail-order tobacco sales, and working for change in the motion picture industry to curb youth exposure to depictions of tobacco in movies, which the Surgeon General has concluded cause kids to smoke.
Some important Washington laws pertaining to tobacco include:
- Youth Access to Tobacco (RCW 70.155): It is against the law to sell or provide tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 in Washington. The state is committed to keeping our youth protected from the harmful effects of tobacco.
- Smoking in Public Places (RCW 70.160): In 2005, in an effort to cut down on harmful second-hand smoke, voters approved Iniative 901, making Washington the fifth state to ban smoking in all public indoor places, including workplaces.
Those who would like to quit smoking and need help can call the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit the Centers for Disease Control online for tips. A more complete list of resources can be found on our website at: www.atg.wa.gov/Tobacco/Resources.