The Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee voted this week in favor of legislation increasing the age to buy or use tobacco products from 18 to 21.
State Sen. Greg McCortney, chair of the committee, is the author of Senate Bill 1423.
McCortney, R-Ada, said the bill brings Oklahoma into line with a federal change made in December when the Tobacco-Free Youth act was signed into law, prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
“Even though the federal law has changed, we still needed to follow through in the Legislature, because enforcement takes place at the state and local level,” said McCortney, whose District 13 includes most of Garvin County.
“This change will help avoid confusion or ambiguity and ensure clarity for the public, businesses, state agencies and law enforcement.”
Currently, state law sets a minimum age of 18 for tobacco sales and use. Under SB 1423, the minimum age would be raised to 21 for purchasing or using tobacco products, and it would be illegal to sell or give tobacco products to anyone younger than 21.
McCortney said the change would also help improve Oklahoma’s health outcomes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 90 percent of adult cigarette smokers report they first tried smoking before the age of 18.
“Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease disability and death in this country,” the state senator said.
“Raising the age limit for tobacco products has long been promoted as a way of reducing tobacco use, so this change will help us with our goal to improve public health in our state.”
SB 1423 will next be considered by the full Senate.