Arizona bill would raise age for tobacco, e-cigs to 21

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Arizona teens would lose their right to light up under a bill that will go before the Arizona state Legislature in the new year.

Two Republicans, state Sen. David Farnsworth and state Rep. Paul Boyer, submitted a bill this month that would raise the legal age to buy or possess tobacco products from 18 to 21.

SB 1010 would also raise the legal age for e-cigarettes to 21, regardless of whether the product contains nicotine.

A similar measure sponsored by Boyer died in committee last session, but the lawmaker and schoolteacher said he was more optimistic this time around.

“I always think about my students and as far as I know none of them smoke, but I'm always thinking what impact does this have on the next generation,” Boyer said in an interview. 

Boyer pointed to studies showing that most lifelong smokers start before age 21.

“If we can put in a policy that prevents or disincentives people from becoming a lifetime smoker, then that's a huge win for the state of Arizona,” he said.

An estimated 37,600 Arizona high schoolers smoke, according to statistics compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. That’s about one of every 10, and largely in line with the national average.

However, 27.5 percent of Arizona high school students use e-cigarettes, more than double the national average.

Critics say adding tighter restrictions on tobacco is an example of unnecessary government interference, and argue the measure won’t keep cigarettes out of the hands of teens.

Boyer says adjusting the legal age to 21 would make enforcement easier. State-issued IDs for individuals under 21 are oriented vertically rather than horizontally, making it easier for clerks to spot people who are underage.

Five states have moved the legal age for tobacco to 21. In Arizona, two cities adopted such restrictions, beginning with a student-led initiative in Cottonwood last year.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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