Legislation approved by a House committee today would make it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase tobacco products.
“The younger someone starts smoking, the harder it is to break the addiction later in life,” said state Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton. “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.”
House Bill 2314, by Coody, would gradually increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products to age 21 by 2015. The bill incrementally increases the age limit for an individual to buy, possess, be sold or be given tobacco to age 19 after Nov. 1, 2013, age 20 after Nov. 1, 2014, and age 21 after Nov. 1, 2015.
Under current law, anyone age 18 or older can purchase tobacco products.
Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable death in Oklahoma, costing over 6,000 Oklahoma lives and $1.1 billion in direct health care costs each year.
In addition, productivity losses from smoking-caused early deaths are estimated to exceed $1.7 billion annually in Oklahoma.
“While tobacco was once seen as a harmless vice, that is clearly not the case,” Coody said. “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.”
House Bill 2314 passed out of the House Public Health Committee today. It will next go to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.