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Nebraska, Connecticut Latest States to Consider Raising Smoking Age

Lawmakers in both states are gearing up to debate the pros and cons for changing the tobacco buying age to 21.
February 15, 2017

​LINCOLN, Neb. – A Nebraska bill would increase the state’s legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Sponsored by state Sen. Merv Riepe, the proposal includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other nicotine products, such as electronic cigarettes, the Hastings Tribune/Associated Press reports.

“Raising the drinking age to 21 is a prime example of the deterring effect raising the minimum age can have on society,” Riepe said. According to the Nebraska chapter of the American Lung Association, 22% of high school students said they used e-cigs, while 13% smoked cigarettes.

Sens. Carol Blood and Burke Harr oppose the measure, pointing to the fact that 18-year-olds can vote and join the military. “How can you help me justify the fact that we make 18-year-olds register for the draft, can make them go to war, but can't let them make the adult decision to smoke?” Blood said.

Meanwhile, across the country in Connecticut, lawmakers are also debating a bill that would raise the legal tobacco buying age to 21, WNPR-FM reports. State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey told the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee members why he supports the measure. “While less than half of adult smokers become regular daily smokers before age 18, four out of five become regular daily smokers before they turn 21,” McCarthy Vahey said.

Echoing the concerns voiced by Nebraska senators, state Rep. Jason Perillo also brought up the point that 18-year-olds, who can serve in the military and vote, should be allowed to make their own decisions related to tobacco use.

Currently, only California and Hawaii have statewide restrictions on being 21 to buy tobacco, although around 200 other localities have also raised the minimum tobacco purchase age above 18. Already this year, Arizona and Oregon are considering similar bills. For more, read “Must Be 21 to Buy” in NACS Magazine.