A committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has recently approved legislation that would raise the legal age for the use of tobacco to twenty-one. While the drinking age has been twenty-one across the country for several decades now, in most places the age limit for tobacco use is still eighteen.
While it’s no secret that smoking leads to a host of health problems, and causes you to pay more for health insurance, legislating a higher minimum age isn’t something most places consider. So, what’s the reasoning in Oklahoma? According to state Representative Ann Coody (R – Lawton), it’s about breaking the cycle of addiction.
“The younger someone starts smoking,” Coody said, “the harder it is to break the addiction later in life.” She continued, “By raising the age restriction on tobacco purchases, we can deter many young people from ever starting this bad habit and save them years of health complications.”
Under the terms of Coody’s bill, HB 2314, the legal age to purchase tobacco would increase gradually from the current age of 18 to 21 by the year 2015.
With over 6,000 lives lost to it each year, tobacco use is the state of Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death.
Coody emphasizes, “While tobacco was once seen as a harmless vice, that is clearly not the case. If we can discourage young people from smoking, it will benefit that young person’s health and ultimately benefit our state economy through greater productivity and lower health expenses.”
The bill passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Public Health Committee yesterday. It now goes to the House floor for debate.