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Board of Health joins call for increasing the age to purchase tobacco and vapor products


Board adopts resolution to raise age from 18 to 21


The King County Board of Health gave its unanimous approval to a resolution, sponsored by Boardmember Rod Dembowski, calling on the Washington State Legislature to pass legislation proposed by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to increase the legal purchase age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 years to 21 years old.

“The facts are evident – smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, it costs Washington State billions of dollars in healthcare, and 95% of adult smokers begin before the age of 21,” said Dembowski. “That’s why it makes sense to reduce access to tobacco and vapor products to our youth while their brains are still developing and they are especially susceptible to addictive substances. This is good public health policy, it is fiscally responsible, and it supports parents who try to keep tobacco products from their kids.”

“I am especially proud of the motion passed by the Board of Health supporting the state legislature’s bill to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old,” said Board of Health member Dr. Benjamin S. Danielson of Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This is a sensible measure we should all support. As a pediatrician I see all too often what health research keeps reporting: that people who start using tobacco earlier are more likely to be lifelong users. Research also tells us that younger kids are 6 times more likely to become smokers if they see older siblings use tobacco. In addition, we know that this change in the legal purchasing age will help reduce secondary smoke exposure. So tobacco use, especially in younger people, has detrimental effects on the people around them, especially the youngest people around them. I see this bill as a way to protect the health of young children as well as those in the 18 to 20 age group.”

Currently the Washington State House of Representatives has passed the legislation out of the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness by a 12-3 bipartisan vote, while the bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee.

The King County Board of Health consists of bi-partisan elected officials and several health care professionals from throughout King County. The Board of Health sets county-wide policies and regulations to protect and promote the health of King County residents. The Board was an early leader nationally on efforts to keep e-cigarettes from youth under the age of 18.

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