Higher tobacco age would have health benefits, group says

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – How about following your first legal drink with your first legal cigarette?

Legislation introduced by state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-Philadelphia) would raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Brown cites studies that say those who smoke daily start at a young age.

“We certainly believe that by raising the age, the minimum age at which people can purchase tobacco, that they may delay the start of their smoking and maybe even not smoke at all,” said Larissa Bedrick, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

Bedrick said the American Heart Association is still looking at the bill, but at first glance it has their support. She said it could help Pennsylvania, which is over the national average when it comes to youth smokers.

“Decreasing the amount of smokers, particularly young smokers, will save lives,” Bedrick said. “It will save millions of dollars in health care costs over the years and it will improve the lives of Pennsylvanians overall.”

Some stores worry that raising the age to buy tobacco will hurt their bottom line.

“I do believe the convenience stores will be hurt,” Amie Baier, a supervisor for Smokers Express, told ABC 27. “I definitely believe the younger crowds do tend to go to the convenience stores.”

Baier believes that teenagers will get their hands on tobacco no matter what. She wonders how much legislation like this would actually work.

“It doesn’t matter what you raise the age to, that’s going to continue to happen,” she said. “Alcohol is the same way.”

Similar legislation is under consideration in Washington, D.C.

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