Central Oregonians react to higher tobacco sales age

Oregon poised to be 3rd in U.S. to raise age to 21

Oregon could raise age when...

BEND, Ore. - Smokers between 18 and 21 soon will have to find a new outlet to get their nicotine fix, as Oregon is one step away from from raising the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and tobacco products.

Senate Bill 754, which is headed to the governor's desk, will raise the state's age for all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21. 

Oregon will be the third state in the nation to raise the smoking age when purchasing tobacco products, following Hawaii and California.

Some Central Oregonians said Friday they believe the move is going too far when controlling people at the age of 18.

"My feeling on this is two things, that they become legal adults at 18 and we expect them to make proper choices and they should have that choice. If they can fight for their country and die for their country, they should have that choice," Dot Maielua said. 

According to the Oregon Nurses Association, 1,800 kids in the state begin smoking every year.

Bruce Humphreys, a local nurse, said he would like to see the state Legislature do more with the bill -- for example, increasing taxes on tobacco. 

"This bill is a great step, but because it lacks an enforcement component, it still falls short. I was disappointed with the Legislature in that it did not act on the enforcement part," he said.

Emily Bolen told NewsChannel 21 underage teens will usually get cigarettes from people they know. 

"I think it (the bill) will help in restriction, but it's still going to be pretty accessible for young people," Bolen said.

In Deschutes County, there were 305 tobacco-related deaths in 2016, officials said.

When it comes to underage teens, 7 percent of 11th-graders reported using cigarettes in the state. In Deschutes County, 9 percent of the students said they had used a cigarette. 


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