Rep. Harris hopes to raise tobacco sale age to 21


Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver is planning to reintroduce legislation to raise the age for legal sale of tobacco.

The “Tobacco 21” bill would keep people under the age of 21 from legally buying tobacco and vapor products. 

“Tobacco-related products are still prevalent on the school campuses. My goal is to keep tobacco products out of our schools and out of the hands of our young people,” Harris said in a statement. “The younger a person starts using tobacco or smoking increases the odds substantially that they become addicted to nicotine and end up with serious health issues as an adult.”

The House Republicans announced in a news release Harris’ intent Nov. 15, the day of the Great American Smokeout, a push by the American Cancer Society for those who smoke to quit or make a plan to quit on the third Thursday of every November.

The release cites a 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s report that found nearly 95 percent of smokers started before they were 21, with daily smokers having their first cigarette at 15 before smoking daily at 18.

“We require people to be 21 to consume alcohol, yet despite nicotine being one of the most addictive substances known, we let people buy tobacco at age 18. I am hopeful that raising the tobacco sale age to 21 would delay young people’s initiation to it and reduce the odds they get hooked on it and use it as an adult,” Harris said. 

According to the release, five states — Oregon, California, New Jersey, Maine and Hawaii — alongside the District of Columbia and more than 340 cities and counties have enacted laws raising the age for sale of tobacco products to 21.

“There is a nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21 and Washington needs to be recognized as a state that cares about its youth,” Harris said.

Harris had initially reintroduced a similar bill in the 2017-2018 legislative session. This year the bill managed to pass the House, but it was a day before that year’s session was scheduled to end and never made it through the Senate.