Age to buy tobacco raises to 21, businesses worried

Tobacco sign changes to say no sales to anyone under 21
Copyright KXLY 4 News Now

SPOKANE, Wash. — A change so new, one tobacco store had to tape a handwritten 21 onto a sign, saying no one under 21 can buy tobacco products.

It is now illegal for anyone under 21 to buy tobacco products. This includes cigarettes and e-devices. The historic move came as part of a trillion dollar spending package signed into law by the president.

The state of Washington was already on track to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. That legislation was supposed to go into effect on January 1, but now, the change is immediate because federal law takes precedent.

It’s a law that Buddy Butler does not agree with.

“They need to change the age of people going into the military, because if you can go in at 18 years old, carry a gun, shoot people, and get shot at and killed, you should be able to buy tobacco if you want to,” Butler said.

Butler chews tobacco and he understands the health risks. He says like anything else, it can be dangerous.

“There’s health risks standing here right now, just people driving by. They’re everywhere,” he said.

Even with the new age change, Cate Patton thinks kids will get what they want, when they want.

“Kids will find a way to still do it, if they want to,” Patton said.

The Spokane Regional Health District said raising the age to 21 will help reduce the number of young people starting to smoke or vape.

“Most youth get their tobacco or vapor devices from 18, 19 or 20 year old’s. So, by removing the access to those individuals, they’re anticipating that initiation among youth will drop by 25 percent,” said Joel Reeves, the tobacco, vapor product and marijuana prevention specialist with SRHD.

Reeves said others have seen that number change in other states where the age was already raised to 21 before the federal law.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to see the effects of this age change here rapidly,” he said.

While some aren’t too happy with this change, it’s now the law.

“I don’t think anyone should be smoking period but again, you need to be able to make your own decision, so I think it is a little bit of a government overreach,” Patton said.

Employees at Smokers Outlet in Spokane said they are worried about business. Since the flavored vape ban went into effect, they’ve lost thousands of dollars.

Like Butler, one employee said if 18-year-old’s are considered adults and have responsibilities, they should be able to buy tobacco products.

In Spokane County, Reeves said kids smoking cigarettes is at an all time low, however kids vaping is rising.

“The recommendations are, your brains are still growing up until you’re 25,” Reeves said. “So, if you can avoid any type of nicotine usage up to 25, preferably your entire life, but at least until you’re 25, it’ll have a less of an impact of your brain development.”

If you would like to quit smoking or vaping, the Spokane Regional Health District has resources to help with that. Visit their website here.