Texas, Washington Mull Statewide Tobacco 21 Laws

AUSTIN, Texas — Though many municipalities have joined the Tobacco 21 movement, only two states have raised the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21. That number could double if Texas and Washington State pass similar measures.

In Texas, state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) has drafted legislation, Senate Bill 183, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to consumers under 21 years of age. State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Fort Bend) is backing the bill in the house, reported KVUE.com.

Further north, legislators in Washington State are considering efforts to make Tobacco 21 the law statewide. 

According to the Seattle Times, an effort to raise the legal buying age statewide stalled last year, but lawmakers filed a new bill in advance of the legislative session that begins Monday. State Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) is the primary sponsor of the move in the House, House Bill 2313. She told the news outlet she thinks the measure "is gaining momentum."

In the House, the bill has more bipartisan sponsorship than last year. It's sponsored by Republican leadership such as state Rep. Shelly Short (R-Addy), the chairwoman of the Republican caucus in the state House of Representatives.

The House Committee on Health Care and Wellness held a hearing on House Bill 2313 on Jan. 11.

However, according to the report, the bill faces obstacles in the state Senate. Notably, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), chairman of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee, said he wants more information brought to the legislature about vaping and e-cigarettes — which he said are potentially healthier alternatives to cigarettes.

The legal age in Texas and Washington is currently 18 years old.

If legislation is approved, the two states would follow in the footsteps of Hawaii and California. Hawaii became the first state to set the legal minimum buying age for tobacco products at 21. That law went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, as CSNews Online previously reported.

California became the second state on June 9.


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