Washington state’s Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1074 into law on April 5, 2019. The state’s new Tobacco 21 legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, making it illegal under Washington law to sell or even give tobacco or vaping products to people under the age of 21.
At the signing ceremony held at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on April 5, Gov. Inslee said, “On behalf of all the children in the state of Washington, I am signing House Bill 1074, and we are going to save thousands of lives.”
Washington state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson echoed Inslee’s sentiments, adding, “This bill embodies what it takes to get a big bill that will save lives and improve lives across the finish line. It’s been a long road, but it has been worth the wait.”
House Bill 1074’s sponsor was Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver), and the sponsor of the Senate’s companion bill was Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue). With the passing of the bill, it is now illegal for anyone to sell or give any covered tobacco product–including cigarettes, cigars and vapor products–to any person under the age of 21. This is extended to even include cigarette papers, wrappers or tobacco products of any form or kind. According to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) association, retailers will now be required to display clearly visible signage designed by Washington’s Department of Health that will read: “The sale of tobacco products to persons under age 21 is strictly prohibited by state law. Photo ID required upon request.” The sign will be provided free of charge by the Liquor and Cannabis Board later in the year.
Advocates for this bill feel it will help save lives by reducing the number of younger Americans from becoming addicted to nicotine and smoking. Based on a 2015 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, it is estimated that by raising the national age to purchase tobacco 21 would reduce adult smoking prevalence by 12 percent and eventually prevent 223,000 of today’s youth from dying early of tobacco-related causes [view study here]. Advocates believe that the Tobacco 21 legislation will make these products harder to get for the state’s 18- to 21-year-olds. They also believe that it will help remove the availability of tobacco and vapor products from the social circles of most teens and demoralizes the use of these products, making it less likely teens will want to use modern products like JUUL and traditional, combustible tobacco products.
Washington state joins a group of nearly a dozen states that have passed or are considering some form of a Tobacco 21 law. Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert signed his state’s Tobacco 21 into effect in April 2019 as well. Arkansas’ Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas’ version this month as well. California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Virginia, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts already have statewide Tobacco 21 laws. New York, Illinois, and Texas are all considering their own Tobacco 21 legislation bills. In recent days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) revealed that he would also be introducing a federal Tobacco 21 bill in May 2019, inspired by the growing use of e-cigarettes and vaping products among America’s youth [read more here].
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