CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation again that would increase the age to legally use tobacco products in West Virginia from 18 to 21.
Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, introduced a measure last legislative session to increase the age; his respective chamber passed Senate Bill 348 in a 20-14 vote, but the legislation failed to receive committee approval in the House of Delegates.
“The argument that got it shot down in the House last year is there’s this belief of personal freedom and beliefs that you can fight for the country at age 18, you should be able to smoke,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“The reality of it is there are limits on all kinds of things that we do at certain ages. You can’t lump everything on one certain age and say when you turn this certain age everything has to happen.”
Takubo, a pulmonologist, said the risk of various cancers and cardiovascular diseases is higher among people who use tobacco products.
“Everything can be abused, whether it’s tobacco or doughnuts or alcohol,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, if it was killing everybody, obviously it would be easy to just outlaw.”
Takubo added he understands the argument about personal freedom, but certain products create public health hazards, such as cigarettes and second-hand smoke.
“What you do with yourself is your business as long as it doesn’t affect me, but at the same time — from a public health perspective — we need to do everything we can for these kids,” he said.
Takubo noted human brains are still developing until someone reaches 23 years old.
“We know if you don’t start any addictive thing before the age of 21, the chances are single digits that you’ll ever pick that up in your lifetime,” he said.
Ohio’s new regulation on purchasing tobacco products went into effect last week. No one younger than 21 can purchase cigarettes, tobacco products or vaping products.