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SALEM, Ore.— The number of states that ban the sale of tobacco products to consumers under 21 is close to growing to three.
The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill to raise the legal minimum buying age to 21. The approval came from a 39-20 vote, eight Republican legislators and all but three Democrats voting in favor of the move, according to The Oregonian.
The legislation is now in the hands of the state Senate where legislators are expected to agree to House amendments. The bill would then go to Gov. Kate Brown to sign into law, which would go into effective immediately.
According to State Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls), keeping tobacco from adults under 21 is about saving lives and money, and that Oregonians spend more than $3 billion a year treating tobacco-related illnesses. Data shows increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 would cut down on those costs and could save tens of thousands of Oregonians from death due to tobacco-related disease, he added.
However, some lawmakers opposed the measure. Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) said the bill is a "tragic case of overreach" and "liberty theft" that could lead to "opening Pandora's box," giving legislators a precedent to regulate unhealthy conduct, according to the news outlet.
Though the Tobacco 21 movement has been on local municipal agendas across the country, only three states have set 21 as the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products statewide. Hawaii was the first to do so as of Jan. 1, 2016, followed by California six months later.