The legal drinking age is 21, and now some state lawmakers want to raise the smoking age to that benchmark as well.
Jane Reardon, a pulmonary clinical nurse specialist, said she’s worked with patients battling lung ailments for the past 50 years.
From chronic bronchitis to emphysema to lung cancer, they all have something in common—smoking.
"I watch as my patients literally struggle for breath, even at rest they cannot work cannot function, participate in family activities that bring them joy,” Reardon said.
Seeing that impact firsthand is what brought her to state lawmakers to speak on behalf of Bill 290.
She said the Institute of Medicine has found raising the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21 would prevent 223,000 deaths.
However, not everyone is convinced it would make a difference.
William Robles started smoking when he was 31, he said as a way to cope with stress after he got out of the military.
"At the age of 21, you're not putting a stop to it, they're just going to go somewhere else,” Robles said.
Another challenge is the potential loss of state tax revenue while there is a budget crisis.
Lawmakers said they understand millions could be lost initially, but they have to look at the big picture.
"But look at the long term consequences, the billions of dollars in health care we will be able to save because we did the right thing,” said State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, of the 31st district.
The sponsors of this bill said they introduced it this year to get that conversation going, and they understand it may take a few years for it to finally get here for a vote.
The next time they'll be talking about it is at the public health committee meeting on Monday.
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