Oregon lawmakers have passed a bill that would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to people under 21. Pending the state governor’s signature, Oregon is about to become the third state in the US to raise the age for buying cigarettes.
Those starting to smoke under 21 are more likely to become lifelong smokers, said lawmakers, who believe that the law would prevent many young people from a lifetime of tobacco and e-cigarette addiction, as well as cancer, heart and lung diseases that can go with it.
“The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that influences personality, decision making, impulses, attention and problem solving,” said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner. “If a youth starts smoking before the age of 25, this habit becomes an addiction. By the age of 25, this addiction is cemented in the brain and it becomes very difficult – almost impossible – to quit.”
The legislation makes it clear that possessing tobacco is not illegal for those under 21.
Each year, around 1,800 youths in Oregon become smokers, according to the American Cancer Society, which has backed the bill.
However, not everyone in the Oregon legislature supported the initiative.
Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, said it’s unfair to 18-year-olds who are legally adults who can get married, sign contracts, join the military, and vote – but will not have the liberty to choose whether to smoke.
“We can’t legislate everything,” he said.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is known to support anti-smoking laws and is expected to sign the bill into law.
California and Hawaii have adopted similar laws. New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it.