The Republican-controlled Kansas House on Wednesday approved a bill that would raise the age to buy or possess cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The legislation also applies to e-cigarettes and vaping products, and would ban them in school buildings. It would also make the purchase of any tobacco or vaping product an offense punishable by a $200 fine for those under 21.
The House voted 79-43 for the bill. It then goes to the full Senate for debate.
In 2019, federal law was changed to prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from legally purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the United States. Since then, at least 11 states have joined about a third of the states that already had their own laws restricting tobacco sales to people 21 and older, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. At least 25 cities and counties in Kansas have adopted similar rules, according to the anti-tobacco group.
Supporters included Kansas’ largest teachers’ union, which says vaping and e-cigarettes make students addicted to nicotine and lead to health problems. The Olathe and Blue Valley school districts also say student e-cigarette use and vaping are causing districts to divert resources to monitoring them.
Rep. John Eplee, a Republican from Atchison and a physician, said the bill would help prevent young adults from forming bad habits.
“If we raise that minimum age to 21 and that’s in line with federal law, that will really make a huge difference for us in the future in the number of young people who become addicted,” Eplee said.
During Wednesday’s debate, no Kansas lawmakers spoke against the bill.
Andy Tsubasa Field is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
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