LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A Little Rock lawmaker is proposing raising the age to purchase or possess tobacco products to those 21-years-old or older.
Representative Fred Allen (D-Little Rock) filed the bill House Bill 1711 on Monday. It would prohibit sale of vapor products, nicotine patches, e-liquid products and rolling papers to anyone under the age of 21.
“We have approximately 600 people a month that will die from cancer,” Allen said. “There's a lot of states that are doing this. In Phillips County, there's an ordinance that you can't buy tobacco products unless you're 21-years-old.”
The bill would move Arkansas into line with California and Hawaii with 21-year-old limits. Oregon is considering it in their legislature as well.
Allen’s proposal would authorize police or school officers to confiscate tobacco products, and could add token community service to a minor who gets convicted of a crime if they had tobacco on them when they were caught.
Tobacco shop owners are already well versed in checking the ages of their customers. At least two feel like raising the age, however, wouldn’t have much effect.
“I don't think it's going to deter or change anything as for as sales as far as the minors getting a hold of it,” said Stan Brown, who co-owns The Parthenon Smoke Shop in Little Rock.
Doug Schrader, owner of River City Vapors echoed those sentiments.
“California has that age limit and I can easily find you people under 21 who are smoking and getting around it very easily,” Schrader said.
The Parthenon bills itself as a “counter-culture” smoke shop with products and a spirit that harkens back to the counter-culture days of the late 1960's.
Brown’s argument sounds a lot like the one made to get the 26th Amendment passed around that time.
“I feel like if a person is 18-years-old and in a position to fight for our country,” Brown said. “If they put their life on the line for our country, for our freedoms and things of that sort, they should at least have the right to smoke. They should have the right to drink and things of that sort.”
The medical considerations are first and foremost in Allen’s mind.
“I think there's a trend around the country. And eventually it will happen. If not now, it will happen someday,” said Allen who said HB1711 is heading for the House Rules committee for consideration.