Washington State Lawmakers Revive Effort to Hike Tobacco Minimum Purchasing Age

Published April 15, 2016

Lawmakers in Washington State are debating a bill that would increase the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21.

House Bill 2313, was introduced in January by state Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and approved by the state House Committee on Health Care and Wellness. It has since been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

In March, HB 2313 was reintroduced for consideration during a special session of the assembly.

Nanny State Policy

State Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax), ranking minority member of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, says adult Washington citizens do not need the government to manage their lives.

“I did not support it out of committee,” Schmick said. “In my mind, an 18-year-old can fight for his country, he can obviously be married, be divorced, be a parent, and enter into contracts. He or she is an adult at age 18. You should be able to make your own decisions at age 18.”

Staying Under the Radar

Paul Guppy, vice president of research for the Washington Policy Center, says lawmakers are trying to pass the bill without scrutiny from voters.

“If they brought this up in public debate or tried to get it on as a ballot measure, they would have a lot of work to do,” Guppy said. “There has been no public debate, no news coverage that we’ve seen. Just in general, we have not perceived any buzz about this happening.”

Guppy says the bill will not have much of an impact, other than making lawmakers feel good about themselves.

“It’s just a theoretical control that only exists on paper,” Guppy said. “Maybe it will make some politicians feel good if they vote for it, but I don’t think it will make much difference in the real world.

“I just don’t think it would have much practical effect,” Guppy said. “If the purpose of it is to discourage smoking, as a public health issue, I understand that reasoning behind it. As a practical policy, I don’t think it will achieve that goal. I don’t think it would keep anyone under 21 from smoking or getting access to tobacco products.”

Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.