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Bill to lift Idaho smoking age from 18 to 21 heads to House

Idaho

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A House panel on Tuesday approved legislation banning anyone under 21 from buying cigarettes or electronic smoking products.

The House Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday approved the measure that will bring Idaho in line with the federal smoking age. President Donald Trump signed a law last year that bars tobacco sales to anyone under 21.

Supporters said Idaho stores are already abiding by federal law, but state law needs to be changed to avoid confusion and confrontations in stores.

Opponents said the law will limit local governments in prohibiting specific types of smoking products. Opponents also said young people age 18 to 20 and who can legally do such things as join the military or buy a house should be able to buy cigarettes or vaping products.

There was concern among some lawmakers that the legislation could prevent local leaders from banning smoking in parks. But backers of the legislation said the ability for cities and towns to do that is found in other areas of Idaho law.

“We are not trying to stop anyone from saying where you can and can’t smoke,” Pam Eaton of the Idaho Retailers Association told lawmakers. “We’re just trying to make uniform the laws retailers have to follow.”

Republican Rep. Fred Wood, a retired physician serving his eighth term in the House, supported the legislation raising the age to 21, noting that over the years he’s seen lawmakers decline to take a more active role in preventing smoking.

“There are a lot of things that the state just plain refuses to do when it comes to tobacco,” he said, noting that setting high taxes on cigarettes was one possibility. “It brings in a lot of money to the state that we can spend on more productive things than having our children smoke.”

The bill lifting the age to 21 has already passed the Senate.

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