House votes to raise tobacco, vaping age; health group opposes exemption


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has approved legislation to raise the state’s legal sales age for tobacco and vaping products, but a supporter of the bill is opposed to its new language.

Senate Bill 473 would ban the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under 21 years of age. Tobacco products include cigars, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobacco.

The House approved the measure by a 135-49 vote on Thursday but with an amendment that exempts people under age 21 if they are active or reserve military or honorably discharged veterans, a provision opposed by the American Lung Association.

The lung association said the amendment severely weakens the bill and puts the lives of Pennsylvania youth at risk. The version approved by the Senate in September did not include the language.

American Lung Association director of advocacy Sarah Lawver called on the Senate to remove the amendment when the bill returns for concurrence.

“Adding a military exemption weakens the legislation and places our military personnel under the age of 21 at continued risk for a lifetime of tobacco addiction and related health issues,” Lawver said in a statement.

The American Lung Association says increasing the sales age for tobacco products could have a big impact on youth tobacco use in Pennsylvania.

The organization pointed to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine that found nationwide, 223,000 deaths can be prevented among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer.

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