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Raising tobacco buying age to 21 raising concerns about vaping

Updated: Apr. 30, 2019 at 5:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - A controversial bill in the Arizona senate calling for the state to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 but wipe out local regulations is facing some serious pushback from lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1147 would raise the to age to buy tobacco products to 21 from 18, but also strip away nearly every local regulation now in place, including for retailers who sell to anyone underage and how far tobacco shops have to be from schools.

“It sounds like a good idea, but its really just smoke and mirrors,” said Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson. “All they want to do is make it harder for cities, towns, and counties to regulate smoking and vaping among young people.”

Bill supporters (which includes Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris) say it gives health advocates what they want by raising the age of buying tobacco to age 21. However, the bill would also de-regulate the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes and vaping products.

On March 27, the Pima County Health Department teamed up with teen advocacy groups to kick off the "Real Deal on Vaping" campaign, aimed at highlighting the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco use at an early age.

The bill would have wide-ranging effects on where tobacco is sold, and even smoked, as it could overturn local and city ordinances banning second-hand smoke in public places.

Lawmakers against the bill are supporting an alternative, which would put e-cigarettes and vaping products under the same regulations as tobacco.

“It would make sense for everything to be 21,” said Ryan Pusztia, co-owner of the Buzz Smoke Shop in downtown Tucson. “Now that they are starting to regulate marijuana, everything (including alcohol, tobacco, and vaping products) should just be 21.”

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