One of the strongest arguments in favor of raising the legal age for tobacco purchases inadvertently comes from the tobacco industry itself. In 1986, in a confidential memo, an executive for Philip Morris wrote, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market (17-20).”
It’s no secret that tobacco companies target young smokers, with the understanding that young smokers are likely to become lifelong smokers. Because of that, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is backing legislative efforts to raise the age for the purchase and use of tobacco in the state from 18 to 21. Such a change would mirror the minimum age for alcohol and marijuana and would make Washington the first state to implement a minimum age of 21 for tobacco use.
Certain municipalities across the country already have raised their smoking age to 21. In 2005, Needham, Mass., was the first to do so, and by 2012 the city’s high-school-age smoking rate had dropped by 50 percent. Results like that are inarguably positive and would be a boon to Washington. “For me, it’s really about helping these kids not have a lifetime of addiction, because that’s what they face,” said state Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the lead House sponsor of a bill to raise the minimum age.