Assistant Majority House Leader Ron Gant (R-TN-94) plans to resume his efforts to raise Tennessee’s legal smoking and vaping age to 21 next year.
The legislation, HB1459, to raise the age from 18 stalled in the House Health Committee the previous session, WKRN reports, but Gant will re-introduce it in January. The cost would have been $7 million in lost taxes.
Tennessee tried to raise the smoking age in past times, MTSU Sidelines said. A bill was introduced in 2018 to raise the legal smoking age to 19. In 2016, the General Assembly tried to raise the age to 21.
The tobacco and vaping industries supported last year’s bill. Tobacco companies are under pressure not to sell to minors.
Clark Rose Bivens, a lobbyist from JUUL Labs, said that JUUL supports the bill. The company does not want younger children to have access to a product they do not need anyway.
Another bill aiming to set the smoking and vaping age at 21, SB1200, also stalled during the previous session in the Senate General Subcommittee of Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-TN-20), the sponsor of the House companion bill to SB1200, grew up working on his family’s tobacco farm but said he sponsored the legislation out of health concerns for Tennesseans, NewsChannel 5 said. Sen. Shane Reeves (R-TN-14) sponsored that Senate bill.
Experts predicted that the Ramsey-Reeves bill would cost state and local governments about $10 million in revenue a year.
Advocacy organizations like Smoke Free Kids have long championed for raising the legal tobacco-use age to 21.
Nearly all smokers start as kids or young adults, and these age groups are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help to prevent young people from ever starting to smoke and to reduce the deaths, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.