BOISE – For a second straight year, an Idaho Senate committee has killed legislation proposed by health advocates to raise Idaho’s smoking age to 21.
This time, just three members of the Senate State Affairs Committee supported the bill; last year, it lost out in a 5-4 vote.
Backers said the bill would save lives and millions in health care costs. It would have applied both to tobacco and vaping, which they said is becoming increasingly popular among teens.
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said people are allowed to make other life-altering choices at 18, including to marry. “If it was as simple as passing a law to fix these problems, we’d probably have a lot more laws and a lot fewer problems,” Vick said. “Unfortunately my experience has shown that it just doesn’t work that way. … It does interfere with the ability of what we consider legal adults to make decisions.”
Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, urged young people who supported the bill to instead urge their friends not to smoke or vape. “Our children in high school need to educate each other – peer pressure,” said Hagedorn, who said he started smoking at age 14 before quitting 17 years ago. “It was against the law for me to smoke, but I didn’t really care because my friends accepted it. When you’re in high school, laws don’t mean that much.”
The panel took two hours of testimony for and against the bill before voting it down. Corey Surber, director of advocacy for St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, said, “There is a disconnect between how we treat tobacco and how we treat alcohol in policy. And the message being delivered to our youth is that alcohol, in policy, is the more harmful of the two substances.” Yet, she said, “You heard today that tobacco is the most highly addictive and the most deadly of the two substances.”
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