Bill seeks to raise Washington’s smoking age from 18 to 21

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bill that would raise the age limit to buy tobacco products in Washington is back at the Statehouse.

SB 6048  would raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

"The tobacco industry doesn't want the minimum age to be raised because they know that if you reach the age of 21 without being a smoker, you will likely end up not being a smoker," Sen. Patty Kuderer (D) said while introducing her bipartisan bill.

Kuderer said 3,900 Washington minors are becoming regular smokers each year. This bill is an attempt to curb that trend.

"Today, they are making E-cigarettes and vape pens with flavored smoke that tastes like gummy bears and blue raspberry. It's a blatant attempt to pull in more youth to their market," Kuderer said.

Adding, "we're seeing vape pens flooding high schools and students are even going as far as to smoke their favorite flavor in the middle of class."

This is the third time a bill attempting to raise the smoking age limit has been brought to the Washington legislator.

"When we first proposed this legislation, Washington would have been the first state to move to Tobacco 21. Last year, we would have been the third, now five states including Oregon and more than 200 cities and counties have increased the smoking age to 21," Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in support of the bill.

Ferguson also pointed out that the bill does not criminalize a 19-year-old caught with a cigarette but rather fines store clerks for selling the product to minors.

Hawaii was the first state in the nation to raise its smoking age to 21, followed by California, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon.

A similar bill is also making its way through the Idaho legislator.

"No bill in Olympia this session will save more lives than increasing the legal smoking age to 21," Ferguson said.