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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 21, 2015 at 9:38 AM

State attorney general proposes to raise smoking age to 21

OLYMPIA – State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to announce a bill to raise the smoking age in Washington to 21 from 18.

Most states have allow people to buy cigarettes once they reach 18, though in at least two states, Utah and New Jersey, the age is 19, according to Beverly May, regional advocacy  director for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Colorado and Utah both considered raising the age to 21 taking last year, but those bills failed. New Jersey considered a similar proposal last year, according to May, and will take it up again this year. California and Hawaii are considering similar bills, she added.

Cities around the nation, however, have already begun boosting the legal smoking age. New York City, Evanston, Ill., and 30 communities in Massachusetts have already raised the legal age to 21, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. And Hawaii County, also known as the aloha state’s Big Island, has raised the age to 21.

May said such laws don’t just deter smoking for kids up to 21. The change helps “get the cigarettes out of the hands of 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds who purchase for younger kids,” she said.

That vast majority of smokers began smoking before they were adults, and “they’re not getting those smokes legally,” said May.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 42.1 million people, or 18 percent of Americans age 18 years or older, smoke cigarettes.

Comments | More in Attorney General, State Legislature | Topics: Bob Ferguson, cigarettes, smoking

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