Louisiana lawmakers are one step closer to raising the smoking age to 21, but with some exceptions.
Monday morning, the bill passed through the house budget committee. Republican Rep. Frank Hoffmann, West Monroe, authored the bill citing health concerns and costs for health care.
“Raising the age to smoking will help reduce smoking, save lives and save a lot of money for healthcare,” said Rep. Hoffmann.
The Louisiana Department of Health estimates raising the minimum age could result in a 12% decrease in tobacco use and 50-thousand fewer deaths from lung cancer.
“18 years old is a legal adult, therefore I believe you should have the choice to ingest a nicotine containing substance if you wish,” said the manager at Vapor Viper, Reggie Hossley. “We already have a day to day battle fighting underage kids coming in here every day. What makes you think that will stop?”
His co-worker, Jacob Juve, had a different opinion saying, “I feel like this law should pertain more to tobacco use because while I am for this law, I am grateful I had vaping to help me quit smoking cigarettes.”
“Smoking has so many terrible side effects that I think that it would be great to increase it to an age where people are making wiser decisions hopefully,” said Bessie Whippe, who used to work as a registered respiratory therapist.
But some could be exempt from the proposed legislation, depending on their career.
“Many think the military needs to be able to do things differently if they want to do that. They’re serving our country, they’re risking their lives, I still hope they choose not to smoke,” said Rep. Hoffman.
Rep. Blake Miguez offered to expand that exception to also include first responders and law enforcement.
“We also have a lot of first responders, our police, our EMS, our firemen that respond and sacrifice a lot daily and risk their lives daily on domestic soil. So I think they’re equally as important,” he said.
But some people we spoke with question those exemptions.
“I feel like if this law is going to be here, it needs to affect everybody,” said Juve.
“I can’t understand why there would be an exception for anyone. Why a particular occupation would be an exception for anyone,” said Whippe.
The bill is now heading to the house floor for debate. If the proposal passes, Louisiana would join 13 other states who have raised the smoking age.
Original story below:
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A bid to increase Louisiana’s legal smoking age from 18 to 21 narrowly escaped the House budget committee, but only after lawmakers added a long list of exemptions to the proposal.
House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry broke a tie to keep the bill from being bottled up in committee. It advances to the full House for debate.
Still, the measure only won passage after lawmakers exempted people in the military, law enforcement and first responders from the age boost. The legislation also would exempt anyone who turns 18 before Dec. 31.
Republican Rep. Frank Hoffmann says his proposal would save lives and cut health costs. Critics say the exemptions are burdensome to business. Anti-smoking groups say the bill doesn’t go far enough to curb smoking.