Colorado Votes Against Raising Minimum Tobacco-Buying Age

Latest state to reject moves to increase purchase age to 21

Daniel Kagan

Daniel Kagan

DENVER -- The Colorado House Finance Committee has rejected a proposal that would have raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, voting seven to six against the measure. According to the Associated Press, the vote was not split by party lines: a Republican co-sponsored the bill, and it was a Democrat, State Representative Daniel Kagan, who cast the deciding vote against the measure in an effort to protect the rights of legal adults.

State Reps. Beth McCann (D) and Cheri Gerou (R) co-sponsored the bill, which passed out of the House Health & Environment committee.

"Do we tell them, you may not do this, we're going to stop them … or do we urge them to take responsibility for their actions and treat them like adults?" said Kagan. "I come down on the side of treating 18-to-20-year-olds like adults."

Others questioned whether raising the minimum age would even prevent 18-to-20-year-olds from smoking.

"Kids aren't dumb," said Rep. Jim Wilson (R). "They're going to get new friends at 21 to supply them."

Although he wasn't a part of the committee voting on the measure, Colorado's House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D) told reporters before the vote that he opposed the bill.

"I think the conversation on smoking and how we make sure that we protect our kids is an important conversation," he said. "As of right now, I do not support the bill. But there is division within both my caucus and the Republican caucus on that."

The decision came shortly after Vermont Utah lawmakers killed similar bills aimed at raising the smoking age.

Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc. has voiced opposition to raising the minimum age on a state level, especially while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting a study to determine the effects of nationally raising the smoking age over 18.

"While we recognize that these are difficult issues, we believe Congress has established a thoughtful process for understanding the issue better," the company said in a written statement last month. "We intend to engage in that process, with FDA, as it takes its course."