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Washington state raises smoking age to 21

Washington becomes the ninth state to raise the smoking age to 21.

Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation Friday raising the smoking and vaping age in Washington to 21 years old.

The measure raises the legal age to purchase tobacco, e-cigarettes, and vape products and penalizes anyone who sells to underage buyers.

"We know the scourge of nicotine addiction and tobacco products has caused," Inslee said at the bill signing. "We know that 95% of smokers start that dangerous behavior before age 21. This bill is going to save thousands of lives in the state of Washington."

Washington becomes the ninth state to raise the smoking age, following California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia and Oregon, in addition to Guam. The Illinois Legislature has also passed similar legislation, but it hasn’t been signed into law yet.

"This will be a silent victory over a deadly disease," Inslee said. 

Supporters of the bill argued it would reduce youth smoking and save the state money by lowering the number of patients seeking healthcare for smoking-related illness.

A statewide youth survey released last month found that teens report smoking less than half as much as a decade ago. However, teen vaping is at an all-time high.

Critics argue the bill is an issue of personal freedom, saying that people who are 18 years old can make other life-altering choice, such as getting married or going to war.

RELATED: Vape shop sees flaws in bill raising smoking age to 21

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. 

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