Nevada lawmakers considering bill to increase minimum age to purchase tobacco


Steven Senne / AP

In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.

Sun, Jun 2, 2019 (8:40 p.m.)

CARSON CITY — Republican lawmakers in Nevada have introduced a last-minute bill that would raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco.

The bill — Assembly Bill 544 — would include all tobacco products, including vape pens and related components. There’s one exception: active-duty members of the military can continue buying tobacco products at age 18 or older.

The bill was presented to the Assembly Committee on Taxation this evening by Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, who said that he did want others picking up the tobacco habit he’s had for decades.

“I’m 65 years old and I smoke. I started when I was 14. I don’t want my kids doing it. I don’t want their kids doing it,” Wheeler said. “It’s got to stop.”

Lesley Pittman, representing JUUL Labs, said the company supports the bill, and touted past efforts from the company to stop underage vaping, including deleting certain social media accounts and getting rid of flavors.

“This is a very serious issue for JUUL Labs,” she said.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C. require residents to be 21 to purchase tobacco products, including Washington, Oregon, California and Utah in the west.

According to a study from the National Academy of Medicine, raising the tobacco consumption age to 21 would decrease smoking initiation for 15-17-year-olds by 25%, decrease smoking-related deaths by 10% and could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born in the 21st Century.

Assemblywoman Ellen Speigel, D-Henderson, brought up staggering the change and grandfathering in those who were 18 when the law passed. Wheeler was receptive.

Peter Krueger, representing the Cigar association of America, spoke in opposition, stating there wasn’t enough time to review the measure. The session ends Monday.

“We’ve got 30 hours to go, and here we’re discussing bill that doesn’t go into effect until after the next session is over,” he said.

The bill was passed out of the Assembly Taxation Committee Sunday night, and was quickly picked up and passed by the Assembly 38-3.

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