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Statewide Tobacco 21 Age Hike Ripped As A ‘Solution Looking For A Problem’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A proposal to raise the legal purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 in Idaho was defeated for a second straight year in a Senate committee Wednesday.

During a two-hour public hearing before the vote, opponents of the legislation ripped the age hike as an example of government overreach that threatens the future of small shops and retailers. Proponents of the age hike argued it would prevent youth smoking, but critics noted the teen smoking rate has already been declining nationally for years, reports The Spokesman-Review.

Members of the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee ultimately killed the proposal in a 6-3 vote, garnering less support than a similar effort to hike the tobacco purchasing age last year that was defeated in the same committee in a 5-4 vote.

“If it was as simple as passing a law to fix these problems, we’d probably have a lot more laws and a lot fewer problems,” Republican state Sen. Steve Vick said Wednesday, according to The Spokesman-Review. “Unfortunately my experience has shown that it just doesn’t work that way. … It does interfere with the ability of what we consider legal adults to make decisions.”

Vapor products were included in the age hike proposal, despite containing no tobacco and research showing e-cigarettes are helping longtime smokers ditch the habit. Proponents have previously stated their fear vaping is serving as a gateway product to combustible cigarettes for teens.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, released Dec. 14, shows reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to 4.2 percent this year, down from 24.6 percent in 1997, even as the number of youth experimenting with vaping devices increased.

Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.

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