New bill to raise minimum age for buying tobacco

— A bill regarding the purchase of tobacco products was introduced this week in the Colorado General Assembly. The legislation, House Bill 14-1263, proposes changing the state’s minimum age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21.

The primary House sponsors of the bipartisan bill are Reps. Beth McCann, D-Denver, and Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen. Senate sponsors are Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.

The intent of HB 1263 is to counter early adulthood tobacco use, McCann said.

Statistics from the American Lung Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 study show that 70 percent of regular smokers began their habit before age 18, and 86 percent started smoking before age 21.

“When people start very young, they get addicted, and then it’s very hard to quit,” McCann said.

Although she doesn’t expect the change — which would take effect at the beginning of July, should the bill pass — to have a significant impact on reducing the number of young people who already smoke, the hope is that the alteration will cause those affected to think more about what tobacco and nicotine will do to their future health.

The bill also includes a grandfather clause for those who are between ages 18 and 21 as of July 1.

An existing concern with the legislation is that even with the minimum age raised, those younger than 21 still will be able to persuade older acquaintances to purchase tobacco for them. However, Craig Mayor Terry Carwile said worrying about someone circumventing the law shouldn’t prevent the bill’s passage.

“I’m not sure what the odds are of passing, but I’m sure it will get a fair hearing,” he said.

Carwile said he is very enthusiastic about the health benefits the bill could have on the Northwest Colorado region and across the state. Having seen numerous friends and family die from causes in which smoking was a factor, he can’t help but wonder if their lives might have been longer had they not gotten ahold of cigarettes in their youth.

“I’d prefer it if nobody ever touched any kind of tobacco,” Carwile said.

Tobacco prevention also gained ground a national level this week with the announcement by pharmacy chain CVS Caremark that it will completely cease the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in its 7,600 stores across the country by Oct. 1.

"Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered," said the company's Web site about the decision. "This is the right thing to do."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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