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Poll: Most Wash. voters back increase in smoking age to 21

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OLYMPIA, Wash. A new poll says legislation that would raise Washington's smoking age to 21 has more support than keeping the legal age to buy tobacco at 18.

A survey by independent pollster Stuart Elway released at a news conference Wednesday says 65 percent of voters back hiking the smoking age to 21, while 35 percent oppose a potential raise.

"The support was broad and deep," Elway said.

The survey of 500 registered voters was taken Dec. 28-30 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the legislation to boost the smoking age, which has a hearing in the House on Wednesday.

"Some of us were here a year ago for a press conference. I just want to note the crowd has grown. The amount of support has grown dramatically," Ferguson said.

At Wednesday's hearing in the House Mercer Island High School senior Sarah Stewart testified, "Passing the 'Tobacco 21' bill you quite literally are saving the lives of teenagers across the state and saving the lives of my classmates."

Convenience and grocery store operators are opposed. Joanie Deutsch of the WA Retail Association testified, "A change in this nature will drive the market for these products to the black market, across state borders to tribal operations and federal properties like Joint Base Lewis-McChord."

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Hawaii recently became the first state to raise its smoking age to 21, and in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie didn't act on a bill Tuesday that would have hiked the state's smoking age to 21, so it remains at 19.

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