New effort to make 21 the smoking age in Washington state

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A renewed effort has just been launched to raise the smoking age in Washington from 18 years old up to 21. It would make this the third state in the country to do that, following in the footsteps of California and Hawaii.

"I started smoking when I was 13," said Mary McHale of the American Cancer Society. She is now a staunch anti-smoker helping lead the effort to raise the age of legally buying cigarettes after she got her first smokes from an 18-year-old friend. "Despite knowing how wrong it was I continued to smoke for the next 11 years until I quit when I was 24 smoking two packs a day.," McHale said.

She and 100 other former smokers and cancer survivors are in Olympia pushing identical state House and Senate bills (HB1054 & SB5025), which put cigarettes on par with the age of legally purchasing alcohol and marijuana.

They say it's for good reason. "Ninety-six percent of adults started smoking before they were 21," said cancer survivor Eunice Hostetter. "When that happens, it's very likely they will be addicted and smoking will be a lifelong habit."

Some will argue those under 21 will get the smokes in some other way. But high- schooler Izzy Lawrence from Benton City is at Olympia saying it'll make it much more difficult. She says she has reason to help in the fight. Lawrence, "Both of my uncles were avid smokers and recently one of my uncles passed away and so that affected me.," she said.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been a strong supporter for the last three years. Last year the bill got through two House committees, but no floor vote. It didn't receive a hearing at all in the Senate.

Sponsor Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) believes this is the year for passage. "Fresh group of legislators. The rule is it takes three years to pass a bill."

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