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Maryland Considers Raising The Legal Smoking Age To 21

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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—You can vote at 18. You can serve in the military at 18. But if some Maryland lawmakers have their way, 18 will be too young to smoke a cigarette.

Derek Valcourt has more on an effort to raise the minimum smoking age in the state to 21. Twenty-one would then be the legal drinking age and the legal smoking age.

It’s an idea that’s picking up steam around the country.

Eighteen, 19 and 20-year-old smokers could soon have their habits crushed if Maryland lawmakers follow in the footsteps of New York City, which recently raised the legal smoking age to 21–an extra three years.

“I’d rather raise it for six,” said Montgomery County Senator Jennie Forehand, who is leading the charge by sponsoring the bill.

For her, the issue is personal after she lost her father to lung cancer.

“He never had smoked, but he worked in an office with people that did,” Forehand said.

She says 21 year olds are more likely to fully understand the health consequences of smoking and less likely to supply kids under 18 with cigarettes.

Years ago, she helped lead the charge to raise the smoking age to 18, a battle she remembers.

“Oh, the sky was going to fall and the convenience stores were going to go out of business. Oh, it was just going to be terrible on the commerce section. Well, it wasn’t at all,” Forehand said.

Maryland isn’t the only state considering it.

Legislatures in Oregon, Utah, Hawaii, New Jersey, Colorado, New York State, Texas, Vermont and Washington, D.C., may all take up the issue this year.

Young adults we talked to have mixed feelings.

“If you can vote, I think you can smoke. I think the dangers of smoking are well known and an adult can legally make that decision,” one woman said.

“I think that the 18-year-olds that still want to go smoke are still going to find a way,” said Akriti Ahuja.

“I don’t really see it as a problem at 18, so I think it will just make a lot of people angry,” said Alex Rosen.

“Smoking’s bad, so keep it away from younger people. Definitely,” one person said.

Under the bill, anyone smoking under the age of 21 would be subject to a fine.

Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Japan are among the countries with minimum smoking ages higher than 18.

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