Bill to raise smoking age to 21 in Oregon passes House


Twenty one years old. That’s how old people have to be if they want to buy cigarettes in Oregon.

A newly passed bill is about to make Oregon the third state in the nation to raise the age requirement for buying tobacco products. As soon as Governor Kate Brown signs it, it will be official.

This could be the last chance for 18, 19 and 20-year-old's in Oregon to buy tobacco products. The reason? Lawmakers say 95 percent of lifetime smokers pick up the habit before they turn 21.

The public image of smoking cigarettes has certainly changed.

“You used to be able to smoke in hospitals, restaurants, I mean everywhere,” said one smoker named Tatiana.

Tobacco users, specially, young smokers are now facing another change. As soon the bill is signed, people will have to be 21 or older to purchase tobacco products.

“I started smoking when I was really young and I wish I hadn’t,” said Tatiana.

“I work at a local cigar shop and I absolutely think it will affect sales. It’s going to be difficult to adjust,” said one Beaverton employee who wanted to remain anonymous.

FOX 12 also spoke with a veteran who wanted to remain nameless. He said he’s also not on board with the new idea.

“If you can take a bullet, you should be able to have a pack of smokes,” he said.

The passing of the tobacco bill is a big win for Christopher Friend, with the Oregon Government Relations Director at American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Friend argues that our troops are better off without tobacco.

“My grandfather joined the Navy and he got cigarettes in his rations, so if he wanted a break, you had to be a smoker,” said Friend.

Friend says the new bill hits close to home for him as well.

“My community, the LGBT community, smokes at almost twice the rate as our straight counterparts. This bill is really putting Oregon on the map, making every Oregonian healthy,” said Friend.

Lawmakers said if people are under 21 and they are caught smoking or using tobacco – they won’t get in trouble, but the business that sold it to them will.

Backers of the bill said fines could be enforced on the manager or seller, not the under aged tobacco user.

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