ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A battle of ages is brewing in Maryland, as some advocates are pushing to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21-years-old.
Six other states and the District of Columbia have already made the change.READ MORE: Break-In Reported At Patterson Park Pagoda
Health advocates in Annapolis met Monday with lawmakers to convince them to consider a bill that would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy tobacco products.
A recent Goucher poll found that 66 percent of Marylanders asked were in favor of raising the age to 21.
Youth leaders including Elliot Morton were ready to lobby lawmakers to change the age, bringing up his own personal loss.
“My great-uncle did die of lung cancer and I just don’t want all those kids to end up like he did,” Morton said.
Morton was with the group Tobacco 21 Maryland, making his pitch for the law. The group’s main mission is to prevent minors from having easy access to tobacco.
“Once you get to 21 it cuts off that access to high school,” Morton said.READ MORE: 8-Year-Old Giraffe Anuli Dies Unexpectedly At Maryland Zoo
Others argue the change in age argument is somewhat flawed.
“Okay, you’re basically saying you’re old enough to vote but you’re not old enough to do a lot of things,” said David Sadugor, President of the Maryland Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors.
Sadugor’s belief is if you change one law you have to change them all.
“And if you want to take it one step further we sit there and charge children with capital murder at the age of 15 or 14. We’re saying yes, they’re smart enough to be old enough to kill someone and know the difference but they’re not old enough not to know the difference to smoke or not smoke,” Sadugor said.
Sadagor also called attention to Virginia’s version of the law which allows 18-years-old members of the military with ID to buy tobacco.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control noted that the use of tobacco products among high school students is up nearly 40 percent. It’s why organizations like the American Heart Association are also lobbying for age change.
“The science is there. It makes the difference if we raise the age to 21 so we can protect our youth here in Maryland to have healthier longer lives,” said Laura Hale, with the American Heart Association.MORE NEWS: Man Stabbed Outside Dundalk Restaurant Last Week Has Died, Police Say