Lawmakers Table Bill Raising Legal Age to Purchase Tobacco Products

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DES MOINES, Iowa - A bill that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 died in a Senate subcommittee Wednesday morning.

Senate File 2016, sponsored by State Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), would change the legal age someone can purchase tobacco, tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, vapor products, and cigarettes from 18 to 21. Wednesday morning, a three-person Health and Human Services subcommittee in the Senate voted against advancing the bill to a full committee, 2-1.

"I don't think it's a good idea to start smoking at any age," said State Sen. Mark Segebart (R-Vail), a member of the subcommittee who voted it down. "But I've also got this feeling that, at 18, you have the right to sign contracts, to go to work. You can get sued at 18. And so, the rights that are given to you at 18 should probably include the ability to buy a pack of cigarettes if you so feel."

Sen. Quirmbach is not a member of this subcommittee, but as it was his bill up for discussion, he attended the meeting anyway. After the bill was voted down, he said he was willing to push this issue in the next legislative session, hopefully seeing more progress.

"The vast majority of smokers start when they are teenagers or young adults," he said. "The statistics are very clear: if we can get people to the age of 25 without them starting to smoke, the chances of them ever starting are very, very small. So, raising the purchasing age is very important to help keep those young people safe until they're able to make a more mature decision. And it's also important for keeping cigarettes out of the hands of high-schoolers."

This isn't the first time Sen. Quirmbach has pushed to raise the age limit on activities connected with causing cancer; for the past three legislative sessions, the Ames lawmaker has pushed to restrict teenagers 18 and under from using tanning beds in Iowa. That legislation is finally gaining traction at the statehouse this year, seeing a bill passed by the Senate last session get taken up by lawmakers in the House this year.

Lawmakers are working on a number of bills in subcommittee and committee stages this week ahead of Friday's legislative funnel - the session's first deadline of sorts that will determine which bills proceed in the statehouse, and which ones fade away until another year. Any bills that do not make it out of a full committee by Friday will not be taken up in either chamber this session.


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