Oregon Becomes Fifth State to Raise Smoking Age to 21

Oregon Becomes Fifth State to Raise Smoking Age to 21


Oregon has joined four other states in barring the sale of cigarettes to people under 21.

© The Associated Press

Oregon has become the fifth state to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signed the bill into law Wednesday. It bars the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 and becomes effective Jan. 1.

Hawaii and California were the first two states to pass such a law. In July, New Jersey joined them, and last week, Maine enacted a law after legislators overruled a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who called the bill an attempt at “social engineering.”

In most states, the legal age to buy tobacco products is 18; in a few it is 19.

Supporters say hiking the legal age to 21 will save lives as well as cut medical costs for states. They point to a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which predicted that raising the age to 21 would reduce smoking by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers are adults. It also would result in about 223,000 fewer premature deaths.

But opponents say raising the legal age to 21 would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue, and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military.

In the last several years, a growing number of local governments have taken action on their own to boost the legal age to 21.

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