New Jersey raises legal smoking age to 21. Could Pennsylvania be next? |
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Ben Schmitt

The minimum age for buying tobacco products and electronic cigarettes in New Jersey is going up from 19 to 21 starting this fall, but don’t expect Pennsylvania to follow anytime soon.

New Jersey became the third state — behind Hawaii and California — to increase the buying age for tobacco products, according to .

Alan Beaken, manager of Hookah Connection located near the Westmoreland Mall, said he has his “fingers crossed it doesn’t happen.”

“There’s no doubt it would impact my business,” he said, noting his customers span the legal-age range, but he would still feel a hit if the minimum age were increased to 21.

Last week, a co-sponsorship memo began circulating in the House seeking support for legislation that would increase the tobacco-buying age to 21 in Pennsylvania.

Similar legislation was proposed last session, but it went nowhere. It doesn’t appear to be on the radar of legislative leaders who are focused on the state’s finances and budget.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. The CDC estimates that 36.5 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million live with a smoking-related disease.

CDC says 21.3 percent of adult Pennsylvanians, or about 2 million people, are cigarette smokers; 11.8 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 smoke.

According to Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco use in Pennsylvania claims 22,000 lives and costs nearly $7 billion in health care bills each year.

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856, [email protected] or on Twitter @kevinjzwick.

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