If Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has his way, Washington will join the ranks of five other states raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18-21.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would raise the legal age to purchase any nicotine product from 18 to 21 years old.

“No bill in Olympia this session will save more lives than increasing the legal smoking age to 21,” Ferguson said during a Senate committee hearing on the bill.

A study from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies analyzing states with legal tobacco ages at 18, 19, and 21 years old demonstrated that states that raised the legal tobacco age from 18 to 21 were more effective at reducing the rates of teen smokers than states that raised the legal age to just 19.

This is because most teens who are under 18 years old buy tobacco from their older friends and family. Raising the legal age would increase the gap between the age group that is most at risk — 15 to 17 year-olds — according to the study.

Lt. Col. Matthew Cooper of the Washington National Guard said that raising the legal smoking age is critical to the National Guard. He said more than 33 percent of current members smoke, which makes them less fit and less combat ready.

A Washington Retail Association spokesman said small convenience stores will take a substantial hit because they will lose customers for tobacco and other services.

The executive director of the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores, supports prevention of underage tobacco use, but does not support raising the legal age to 21. He called for a halt to the bill until tribal smoke shops, casinos, and border states increase their legal age to 21.

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