Kansas House agrees to raise legal smoking age to 21
Rep. John Eplee appears during a Jan. 10, 2023, news conference at the Statehouse. On Thursday, he urged lawmakers to support legislation raising the legal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — The Kansas House passed legislation Thursday to raise the legal age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.
House Bill 2269 — which applies to the sale, purchase or possession of cigarette and tobacco products — would bring Kansas into compliance with federal law. The House granted initial approval after a brief debate, then declared an emergency in order to take immediate final action.
The bill passed on a 68-53 vote, with an assortment of Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The Kansas Department of Revenue predicts the change would cost the state about $7.6 million in annual revenue from decreased sales. But by raising the minimum age, the state would retain about $1.2 million in federal aid for the enforcement of cigarette and tobacco laws.
Rep. John Eplee, a Republican and family physician from Atchison, said during floor debate that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in health care to cover COPD, lung cancer and other illnesses, and that some people start smoking between the ages of 18 and 21.
“Most vendors have already complied with this but are not required to, and it makes enforcement herky-jerky in our state,” Eplee said. “You need to understand clearly — and I want you to hear this — 46 other states have already fallen into compliance. We’re just asking for Kansas to do the same thing.”
Supporters of the legislation include the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Kansas Hospital Association, the Kansas National Education Association and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
The American Heart Association and Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition raised concerns that the bill may not apply to synthetic nicotine and electronic cigarettes.
Rep. Owen Donohoe, a Shawnee Republican, proposed an amendment that would ban smoking at casinos in the state. A rules committee, led by Rep. Fred Patton, a Topeka Republican, blocked the amendment on the grounds that it wasn’t germane.
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