RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia's bill looking to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products is moving forward.
HB2748 passed on Tuesday with 67 delegates voting yes, 31 voting no and one abstaining.
“The Surgeon General has characterized teenage vaping as an ‘epidemic,’ with one-out-of-five high school seniors using these products,” said Speaker Kirk Cox. “By raising the minimum age for purchase to 21, this will have a positive effect on our schools by lessening the chances of teenagers obtaining vaping products from friends and classmates who are already 18.”
The bill will have to be looked at and passed by the Senate, before going to Go
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he'd like to keep kids from picking up that first cigarette.
Before his time as governor, Northam was both an Army doctor and a pediatric neurologist.
"The less minors that put that first cigarette in their mouth, the better," Northam said in an interview with the paper, "Nicotine is addictive, we know that."
SB1727 is the bill that could make Northam's goal a reality.
"Increases the minimum age for persons prohibited from purchasing or possessing tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products, and the minimum age for persons such products can be sold to, from 18 years of age to 21 years of age."
Last Wednesday, the bill was referred to the Committee for Courts of Justice.
"You have 18-year-olds who attend high school. And then they're a conduit or supplier for minors that are interested in these vaping products and other cigarette products," Northam said during the interview. "I think to raise the age from 18 to 21 will at least help with that issue."
Northam is not alone in his goal of raising the smoking age.
Altria, one of the world's largest tobacco producers and marketers, which is based in Virginia, sent a letter to the FDA in October in support of not just Virginia raising its tobacco purchasing age, but to make 21 the national standard for people to buy tobacco products.
If passed, Virginia would become the seventh state to raise the tobacco age to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In July, Massachusetts became the sixth state to raise its age, joining California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon. While not a state, the age to buy tobacco in Washington, D.C., is also 21.