Around New England

New Hampshire Senate Votes To Raise Tobacco Age To 21

January 9, 2020

The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill that would raise the state’s tobacco use age to 21, matching federal law.

The bill passed 16-8 on Wednesday, January 8, with two Republicans joining 14 Democrats to pass it. All eight opposing the bill were Republicans, as Bangor Daily News reports.

State Senator Harold French (R-Franklin) cited freedom to explain why he and seven of his Republican colleagues opposed the bill.

“This bill is not about tobacco use. When you get right down to it, this bill is about the rights of legal adults in this state to make choices,” he told the The Union Leader of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Previously, New Hampshire had voted to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 19. However, the federal government raised the country’s tobacco use age to 21 as a part of its budget bill this past December.

That explains why Democrats supported the further change.

“We need to bring our state law into conformity to federal law,” state Senator David Watters (D-Dover) told the Union Leader. “We have some reports about confusion from retailers. We have some signs from the state that say 19 and we have the federal law that says 21.”

The bill received praise from Kate Frey, vice president of Advocacy for New Futures.

“We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking daily before 21 years of age,” she said, according to the Union Leader. “As youth vaping continues to rise, increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 will go far to keep e-cigarettes and other harmful products out of our schools and away from our kids,” Frey said.

Republican Governor Chris Sununu did not endorse the bill after it passed. However, he did not say he would veto it.

The bill passed with an exact two-to-one majority, just barely enough to withstand a veto if all the state senators repeated their initial votes.

The bill now goes to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

The minimum age to buy tobacco in Massachusetts is now 21, as of December 31, 2018.

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