Age to buy tobacco in Wash. state could go up to 21

SEATTLE - The King County Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Board is asking the Legislature to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in Washington state from 18 to 21.

Board Chairman Pat Godfrey tells KOMO News that the legal age for buying alcohol and marijuana is 21, so a substance as harmful as tobacco should have the same age restriction.

Godfrey says raising the age to 21 would help reduce the number of teens who try smoking and become addicted.

"Our concern is that nicotine is a very powerful addictive substance," he says. "If we can discourage teens from beginning the habit, that's a better strategy than trying to get adults to stop the habit after they've started."

Godfrey tells us the idea of raising the age is in the early stages.

"Get legislators to come forward and sponsor legislation that will raise the age for all tobacco products to 21 years old and be in conformity with the marijuana laws and the liquor laws," he says.

He says the bottom line is that 480,000 people die per year from smoking in the United States.

He figures by raising the smoking age, and possibly the price per pack, tobacco use will decrease significantly.