Lawmakers consider raising smoking age to 21

TULSA, Okla. - State lawmakers are considering raising the smoking age in Oklahoma to 21.

Right now, people have to be 18 years old to purchase or use tobacco products.

House Bill 2314, authored by state Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, would gradually raise the smoking age to 21 over a three-year period.

Coody said the age restriction would deter younger people from smoking and could save the state millions in health care costs and more than a billion in productivity.

Each year, 6,000 Oklahomans die due to smoking-related causes.

But when it comes to changing the legal tobacco use age, Oklahomans are split.

Tulsa resident Anton Brinkman has already taught his young daughter about the dangers of smoking.

"It's bad for your lungs and it will make your lungs black and it will make it really, really hard to quit if you start," said Brinkman's little girl.

Brinkman is a former smoker who is in favor of raising the smoking age to 21.

"Like alcohol, cigarettes are very dangerous," said Brinkman. "By raising the age, it will make more people not start smoking."

Brinkman said he does not think it should be left up to young individuals to decide for themselves.

"Individuals themselves won't do anything. I think the government should do something," said Brinkman.

Allison Egbert, of Tulsa, has never smoked and is against raising the smoking age because she thinks it will cause teenagers to rebel.

"I think anything with kids, it's one of those things where if you have a law, they're going to want to do it even more," said Egbert. "Like with drinking or anything, they're going to find a way to get it if they want it that bad."

Kevin Jameson, of Tulsa, is a former smoker who has mixed feelings about the issue.

"I just quit smoking, so there's part of me that feels that is should be 21," said Jameson.

But when pressed on the issue, James said he is against raising the smoking age.

"Until they raise the age to join the military or vote, I don't think they should raise the age to smoke," said Jameson. "Because if you have the right to serve your country or vote for political officials, then you should have the right to smoke or drink or do anything that any other adult can do."

Tribal smoke shops would be exempt from any changes.

The bill made it out of a public health committee.

The next stop would be consideration by the full House.

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