BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland high school students and representatives from several advocacy groups are working to pass legislation that would raise the minimum sales age of all tobacco products to 21.
The goal is to reverse what some health experts see as a growing trend in tobacco use by teenagers, including nicotine in e-cigarettes.
“When we look at smoking rates and when people start smoking, 95 percent of current tobacco users who are adults started before age 21,” said Laura Hale of the American Lung Association. So this is really about access to our youth. There are 18-year-olds in high schools currently selling cigarettes to their young peers and by raising the age, we see a difference in stopping that sale to minors.
“I wanted to get involved in improving my generation’s and future generations’ health,” said Towson High School freshman Joshua Valeza.
Towson High School students who want to see the legal age raised to 21 testified in a House Economic Matters Committee hearing last week.
Their primary concern is vaping — inhaling liquids in e-cigarettes that contain concentrations of nicotine.
“We’ve learned since middle school, elementary school how harmful smoking is, and we’ve had education to show us how bad nicotine and tobacco is, but vaping is something new and I’ve seen friends do this, so I feel like this is something important that gets talked about,” said Towson High School freshman Noah Rich.
When the opportunity presented itself in the General Assembly, they took it.
Washington, D.C. and five other states — California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon — have already raised the tobacco sales age to 21, along with at more than 275 cities across the country.
The bill now awaits committee votes in both the House and Senate.