Utah Seeks to Raise Smoking Age to 21

Utah already has the highest age among the states for allowing tobacco purchases — 19. But two legislators want to raise it a little higher, to age 21, which would match the state’s minimum age for drinking alcohol.
October 2, 2013

Utah already has the highest age among the states for allowing tobacco purchases — 19. But two legislators want to raise it a little higher, to age 21, which would match the state’s minimum age for drinking alcohol.

"Studies show that an overwhelming majority of smokers try their first cigarette well before age 18. But the thing that caught my eye is they also say that the age when they become addicted [daily smokers] is closer to age 20," said Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, who is writing one bill.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, who is writing another bill, said, "If people have not smoked by age 21, studies show it is extremely unlikely that they will ever begin smoking." He reasons that raising the age limit might prevent more young adults from becoming smokers.

Utah is not the only place looking at raising the smoking age to 21. New York and New York City are debating similar proposals, and similar bills have been introduced in Texas and New Jersey. It has set off hot debates in those states between doctors and the tobacco industry.

The legal age to buy tobacco in most states is 18 — with four exceptions. It is age 19 in Utah, Alaska, Alabama and New Jersey.

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