Push is on to increase age to buy tobacco products

A move is underway to raise the age to buy tobacco products in Washington to 21. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Young people who want to get cigarettes out of the hands of teens descended on the state capitol Monday. They are supporting a bill that would raise the tobacco products purchasing age from 18 to 21.

"I think the chances in the House are really good," said bill sponsor Rep. Paul Harris, (R-Vancouver).

He was rallying the troops with the American Heart Association who were at the capitol to urge lawmakers to pass the bill.

"We have the votes in the House," said Harris. "So we pray we will vote this out either this week or next week and then we'll lag that bill over to the Senate and then we've got to work the Senate side."

On his side is 18-year-old Eastlake High School student Anisa Ashras. She was delivering information to legislators in support of House Bill 1054, which in essence would take away her ability to buy cigarettes.

She said agrees with the new bill "because of the damage to your health."

To Ashras, it's that simple.

She sees the damaging effects of smoking and is trying to get people to not start to begin with.

"I think it's protecting health and I think that's the main concern. And by raising it to 21 that will get it out of high schools," she said.

"I am one of the sponsors of this bill," said Sen. Ann Rivers, (R-Clark County). "I have two parents who died from lung cancer."

But Rivers said she has had a change of heart believing this will only push teen smokers to go to the tribal smoke shops who don't have to adhere to any change in the state age limit.

"It seems silly to me," said Rivers. "That we would have a law that would actually increase the black market for youth tobacco use in our state."

"They're concerned about tribes, to be honest with you," said Rep. Harris. "But I think is a lame excuse. It's just tough policy. It's changing."

The House could take up the bill soon, but that's not a guarantee. Its fate in the Senate is still unknown.

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